Indian Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi warns of challenges ahead of 2014 polls

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January 19, 2013

India’s ruling Congress began a series of meetings Friday to develop a strategy ahead of the 2014 elections. Party leaders worry rival groups have infiltrated the party’s traditional support base.

January 19, 2013

India’s ruling Congress began a series of meetings Friday to develop a strategy ahead of the 2014 elections. Party leaders worry rival groups have infiltrated the party’s traditional support base.

Sonia Gandhi, 66, widow of slain former premier Rajiv Gandhi, reminded colleagues of her party's failures in states such as electorally crucial Uttar Pradesh, where it has been in the political wilderness for over 20 years.

"Inroads have been made into our traditional support base (and) there are some states where we have been out of office for too long," Italian-born Gandhi said in the tourist city of Jaipur in northern India.

This meeting will "enable us to introspect, look ahead, to look at our strengths and weaknesses", said Gandhi, regarded as India's most powerful politician.

Congress, India's oldest political entity, was routed by a regional party in state elections held in Uttar Pradesh in March 2012 despite attempts by Gandhi and her son Rahul, to instill confidence in voters.

In the same month it failed to make a dent in the northern state of Punjab, where the incumbent regional Shiromani Akali Dal, in partnership with India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, retained power after polls.

Congress was also defeated in Goa in western India by the BJP in March 2012 elections and faced similar humiliation at the hands of the BJP in polls held in Gujarat state last December.

Gandhi said the meeting was taking place when Congress faces "serious challenges in states long considered" party strongholds.

She conceded that some of the state welfare programmed espoused by the party had failed to reap political benefits for the coalition government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"The government under Manmohan Singh's leadership has enacted truly revolutionary programmed and historic legislations from our manifesto, but in some states we have not been able to translate this into political support," she said.

The government, which came to power in 2004 and won elections again in 2009, has been buffeted by corruption scandals, huge protests over violent crimes against women, high inflation and a sharp economic slowdown.


Courtesy: AFP