India’s Congress to stage massive rally to push reforms case

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November 4, 2012

India's ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and Premier Manmohan Singh will speak Sunday to rally support for controversial economic reforms ahead of 2014 elections.

Indian Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi speaking about the Party staging massive rally to push econimic reforms case

November 4, 2012

India's ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and Premier Manmohan Singh will speak Sunday to rally support for controversial economic reforms ahead of 2014 elections.

Indian Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi speaking about the Party staging massive rally to push econimic reforms case

India's ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and Premier Manmohan Singh were set to speak at a big rally Sunday to whip up support for contentious economic reforms ahead of 2014 elections.

Italian-born Gandhi, India's political grand matriarch who led Congress to back-to-back wins in 2004 and 2009, is moving into high gear as she seeks to persuade voters to elect the party for a third straight term, analysts say.

At the rally in the Indian capital, the leaders will defend the government's blitz of reforms to allow wider foreign investment in the retail, insurance and aviation sectors aimed at spurring a sharply slowing economy and creating jobs.

"We want to tell people these are people-friendly measures — these are for the betterment of the common man," a senior Congress party official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

"Holding this rally in New Delhi means this message will go out the length of the country — it is part of laying the ground (for the elections)," he said, adding the gathering would be "one of the biggest by the party in some time".

The grounds where the event is to be staged can hold over 100,000 people.

The left-leaning Congress is deeply wary of a voter backlash in the elections due within 18 months over the reforms that have drawn strong political opposition in the still heavily poor country of 1.2 billion people.

Congress faces a broad spectrum of opposing forces from political parties hostile to foreign firms to trade unions worried about job losses and is now a now a minority in parliament, having lost an ally who quit over the sensitive issue of allowing foreign supermarkets into the family-dominated retail sector.

But at the same time, the party knows it has to restore its credibility as a force fit to govern in the face of a drumroll of corruption charges that have put it on the defensive almost since the last elections in 2009, analysts say.

"The attempt now is to shift the debate from negativism of corruption to positives like growth and employment to which the aspirational India responded (in the 2009 elections)," said Indian Express columnist D.K. Singh.

The rally is being staged a week after Singh, 80, overhauled his cabinet to give it a more youthful face with the inclusion of younger ministers to appeal to the country's vast youth population.

The party official said also due to speak was Sonia's son Rahul Gandhi, 42, expected to be projected as the candidate for prime minister in the polls.

Rahul, whose family has dominated politics in India for most of its post-independence history, has rebuffed attempts to get him to join the cabinet, leading to doubts about his appetite for the demands of political life.

But he has insisted he prefers to work at the grassroots to "build the party" and Congress officials say he is tipped soon to be named second in the party hierarchy after the 65-year-old Sonia.


Courtesy: AFP