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Facing heat on corruption – Cong defers conclave

New Delhi: Apparently facing the heat on issues like corruption, Congress has deferred plans to hold a brainstorming session this month.

With Congress is busy with the campaign to counter the Opposition parties in the wake of the Ramdev and Anna Hazare agitations, the conclave is now expected to take place sometime before the winter session of Parliament, which begins in November, party sources said.

As a series of state elections including in key Hindi state Uttar Pradesh are lined up next year, the Congress conclave is expected to generate new ideas that would get the organisation going while facing the challenges ahead.

The `Chintan Shivir`, which is likely to be held in party ruled Rajasthan, would provide an opportunity for mid-term appraisal of the UPA-II which completed two years in power last month.

The hill resort of Mount Abu, where Congress had held a meeting of party chief ministers about a decade back, is being talked about as the possible venue.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi had during the AICC Plenary here in December last year spoken about plans to hold such a conclave. She had said it would give the party an opportunity to refresh its perspectives on crucial national issues and also review the functioning of the organisation.

"It will be an occasion to hear the voices of our colleagues, particularly the younger ones, to bring new energy to our thinking," she had said at the plenary.

Though the party wanted to hold the `Shivir` first in January and then later during the Budget session recess in March, it postponed the programme. With the election schedule for five states being announced, the Budget session was truncated and the party got into election mode.

Since then there were indications that the conclave would be held before the Monsoon session, likely to be held from mid-July. This would be the first conclave since UPA came to power in 2004. .

The `Shivir` is being organised at a time when Congress and the coalition government it runs at the Centre are facing difficult times in the wake of a series of scams and the situation caused by the agitations against corruption and black money.

The first such session had taken place at Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh in September 1998, just a few months after Gandhi took over the reins from late Sitaram Kesri, when the party was in doldrums. At that conclave, Congress, out of power at the centre for over two years, had concluded that the era of coalition in the country was but a "transient" phase.

After eight years of political wilderness in New Delhi, the party line underwent change at the next conclave in Shimla in July 2003, just a year before the Lok Sabha elections, where Congress underlined the need for unity of secular forces.

The success of the new line was visible in less than a year with the ouster of the BJP-led NDA government by the Congress-led UPA under the leadership of Gandhi. This paved the way for the first experiment of the Congress to share power at the Centre from May 2004.

Reports had it that senior party leaders led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee have already been entrusted the task to formulate the central theme for the brainstorming session.

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