New Delhi: Amid concerns within the party over 'limitations' in a coalition government, top Congress leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi will discuss threadbare future strategies during a day-long session (Samvaad Baithak) on Friday. A review of the functioning of the government is expected to be made at the dialogue session at nearby Surajkund in Haryana, the first exercise of its kind in the UPA-II at a time when the party and the government are facing tough challenges and are grappling with a series of scams.

This is clear from the fact that it will be the maiden occasion when the party will take stock of the extent of implementation of the promises made in its manifesto for 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Ahead of the meeting, party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi spoke of limitations in a coalition in implementing any single party's full agenda.

"There are some limitations in a coalition government. But being the largest party in the alliance and leading the government, Congress considers it a responsibility to evaluate as to what extent the promises made by the party in its manifesto have been fulfilled," Dwivedi said.

Rahul Gandhi, who is set to assume a "larger role" in the organisation sooner than later and the top central ministers and Congress Working Committee members will be participating in the deliberations on the political and the economic situation.

Sonia Gandhi's opening remarks at the meeting will set the tone for the discussion on current political situation in the meeting after which the Prime Minister will brief the leaders on the economic challenges and the measures initiated by the government. The issue of alliances could figure at the "dialogue meeting" at Surajkund being held for the first time since the exit of Trinamool Congress from UPA-II and growing speculation of early Lok Sabha elections.

Ahead of the meeting, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that the achievements of the government in the last three years and nine months are "quite impressive".

Chidambaram will be the one to initiate the debate on the economic issues after Prime Minister's speech covering mainly economy but not excluding other subjects. Dwivedi said a total of 70 leaders including 23 Cabinet ministers, 12 ministers of state (independent charge), 19 members of Congress Working Committee and 16 permanent invitees to the CWC will be attending the deliberations.

Interestingly, party chief ministers have not been invited for the session with the AICC saying they along with the PCC chiefs will be called for the Chintan Shivir likely in January next year. Friday's meeting is not going to pass any resolution as it is a meeting called for greater interaction between the party and the government on the challenges ahead, Dwivedi said.

The UPA-I had not witnessed any such "dialogue meeting" and before the Congress came to power, the party had held two brainstorming sessions. The first such session was held at Pachmarhi in 1998 soon after Sonia Gandhi took the reins of the organisation from Sitaram Kesri and the next in 2003 at Shimla shortly before the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

While the line at Pachmarhi was that coalition is a transient phase in Indian politics, the one at Shimla was unity of secular forces, which helped Congress come to power for the first time via the coalition route in 2004 by ousting BJP-led NDA.

After securing more than 200 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and improving its tally substantially, Congress has failed to make a mark in some key assembly elections including in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. The meeting comes ahead of the assembly polls in Gujarat where Narendra Modi is seeking a third term.

PM to explain hard decisions at Cong meet

Against the backdrop of attack over decision on FDI, hike in diesel and cap on LPG cylinders, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will highlight the reasons for these tough decisions on Friday at the Congress conclave with a pep talk to party leaders on how to dispel the "misgivings".

Sources said the Prime Minister will utilise the Congress meet in Surajkund, on the outskirts of Delhi, to explain to party leaders and cadres why these decisions had to be taken.

He is expected to underscore that these decisions were necessary as the country's economy is facing testing times on account of international situation and slowdown domestically.

The government has been under sharp attack over its decision to allow 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail, hike in diesel prices and capping of subsidised LPG cylinders at 6 annually.

Singh is expected to spell out the positive impact of these decisions, particularly that on FDI in retail, the sources said. He is likely to advise Congress leaders and cadres to work for dispelling "misgivings" on these issues.

The sources said that despite difficulties and transparency in government functioning, India has been witnessing rapid growth, drawing a parallel with China where everything is state controlled. This is expected to be articulated by the Prime Minister on Friday.

(JPN/Agencies)

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