New Delhi: Food courts
resembling airport hangars, a conference hall large enough for a
sprint race, rows of neatly laid out tents and even a post office
- an elaborate, makeshift township on the outskirts of the capital
awaits the 20,000 Congress members who arrive here for the
three-day plenary beginning Saturday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi,
who are expected to arrive at Burari in northwest Delhi in a
helicopter, will have rooms and offices close to the main dais of
the conference hall.
Being held in the backdrop of corruption scandals and a
belligerent opposition refusing to let parliament function, the
plenary will pass resolutions on economic, political and foreign
affairs and mark the culmination of 125th anniversary celebrations
of the grand old party.
The All India Congress Committee (AICC) office will also shift to
tents for the last two days of the meeting.
The "city of tents", as Congress leaders describe the venue, at
the sprawling ground along the highway connecting Delhi with
Chandigarh road looks from a distance like a big exhibition
centre. The main conference hall at the centre of the venue can
accommodate around 14,000 chairs.
The entire team of Delhi ministers has been assigned specific
tasks, including food, accommodation, cleanliness and medical
facilities to ensure that there are no glitches. Roads outside the
venue are being relaid and tents are being decked in party
"We are expecting around 20,000 partymen from all over the country
to attend. I am very enthusiastic as it will be one of the party's
largest meetings," Delhi Congress chief J.P. Agarwal told IANS.
He said the participants include about 8,000 Pradesh Congress
Committee (PCC) delegates and AICC members, district and block
Congress leaders, representatives from party's frontal
organisations and special invitees to various committees.
"Since the event is in Delhi, local MLAs may also also seek passes
for their supporters," he said.
Agarwal, MP from Northeast Delhi, said arrangements had been made
for stay of over 5,000 party members in tents.
"Many leaders coming from outside Delhi have their own
arrangements for stay. Party members from adjoining areas of Uttar
Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan are also unlikely to stay at the
venue," he said.
Railway and airline reservation counters and a temporary post
office will be set up for the convenience of delegates. A medical
centre with 10 beds will also come up. There will be counters to
facilitate coordination with delegates from states.
The party has not given any name to its city of tents for which
work started about fortnight back. Party leaders are hesitant to
talk about the cost but a senior leader said the event will cost
above Rs.15 crore.
The party has hired a contractor to put up tents. Delhi Social
welfare Minister Mangat Ram Singhal has been given charge of the
food arrangements for which four hangar-like tents have been
"There will be variety of food to cater to people from different
parts of the country," a party leader said. A separate hangar will
have facilities for the media. The last plenary was held in
Hyderabad in 2006.
The arrangements will be coordinated by Congress Seva Dal workers
who have started arriving in at the venue from different parts of
The ground on the outskirts of the city has in the past been used
for religious congregations and was chosen by the Congress for the
plenary as it can accommodate a large gathering.
Party faithful have already started dotting the road to the venue
with pictures of Sonia Gandhi, her son and party general secretary
Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanaka Gandhi Vadra.
"The plenary will enthuse party workers," Agarwal said, brushing
aside questions about controversies relating to the 2G spectrum
allocation and Commonwealth Games having an impact on the party's
mood for the plenary.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)