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HVK Archives: MPs prefer weekend to Sonia's training camp

MPs prefer weekend to Sonia's training camp - The Asian Age

Ravi Shankar ()
July 20, 1998

Title: MPs prefer weekend to Sonia's training camp
Author: Ravi Shankar
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: July 20, 1998

School's not out for summer. It had to be closed temporarily
because the students skipped town. A Congress training camp
intended to prepare first-term party MPs to face Parliament with
confidence and lead the party to the 21st century had to be
rescheduled midway because most of the MPs took the weekend off
to go back to their constituencies. Without leave of absence.

The camp, which got under way at the AICC under the instructions
and watchful eye of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, was intended
to school the MPs in parliamentary procedure and "raise the level
of debate," according a senior party MP and one of the organisers
of the camp.

Even on the first day of the camp, last Wednesday, attendance
was, not high: 41 of over 70 first-term MPs attended. On the
second day, attendance was even thinner: not more than a handful
straggled in. forcing the party to cancel the next day's
programme, when leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sharad
Pawar was scheduled to speak on the issues before the current
session, and reschedule for a weekday the next week. Professors
>from the Jawaharlal Nehru University who held forth on media-
handling techniques, academics from the Indian Medical
Association who answered questions on health priorities in the
next century competed for attention with noted lawyer and Rajya
Sabha MP Kapil Sibal.

The schedule was planned with the unIndian precision that the
party, under Mrs Sonia Gandhi, is becoming famous for. On the
first day, it read: 1858-1903 hours: Garlanding and welcome
address of Mrs Gandhi. From 1903 to 1915 hours: Inaugural address
of the Congress president. After the camp ended, the MPs were
served take-away dinners ordered from a famous fast-food chain.

"The MPs have a hectic schedule. An MP's job is a tough one when
Parliament is in session. In the morning. before the Houses
reassemble, there is the course being conducted by the Bureau for
Parliament Strategy. Then there is House business, which often
buns till late in the evening. It is not fair to put so much load
on the MPs," said an office-bearer of the Congress Parliamentary
Party, in defence of the MPs.

Now, the organisers of the camp have tentatively fixed Tuesday
and Wednesday for a resumption of the training camp.
Interestingly, among the first-term MPs told to attend the camp
were veteran party leaders who had been chief ministers of their
states: Mr K. Karunakaran from Kerala and Mr Sudhakarrao from
Maharashtra. The organisers of the camp are still ironing out the
glitches. For instance, there are MPs who cannot follow English
with comfort. Simultaneous translation was tried, but failed.
Then the organisers struck upon the idea of getting different
speakers to hold forth on the same subject, one in English and
the other in Hindi.

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