With Rahul, Cong Embarks on a Generational Change
Rahul Gandhi's elevation as Vice President dominated the three-day Congress brainstorming exercise that concluded here today signalling a generational change and a host of reforms in the ruling party at a time when Lok Sabha polls were just 15 months away.
The two-day Chintan Shivir as also the AICC meeting saw the young leader stealing the show amid clamour for giving him a "predominant" role in the party leading to a Congress Working Committee decision last night to appoint him as Vice President.
In fact, Rahul appeared to have become the theme of the meet with growing demand for replicating the reforms initiated by him in Youth Congress and NSUI in all other front organisations as also the parent body.
Interestingly, the party, which spoke of "unity of all secular forces" in the Shimla conclave in 2003 which led to the Congress coming to power at the Centre via the coalition route in May 2004, spoke on similar lines in the Jaipur declaration but was silent on allies.
"Congress calls on all secular and progressive forces of the country to unite in this ideological battle against those, who polarise and divide society," was a signal that the party heading the UPA experiment for last nine years is preparing for UPA III.
But Congress chief Sonia Gandhi gave a clear message at the Chintan Shivir that the party has to "strike a balance" between respecting alliances where it has tied up with other parties and "ensuring that the party's rejuvenation is not compromised".
The conclave provided an opportunity to the Congress to finalise its prescription for the next Lok Sabha polls with the party signaling a shift in its priorities by laying greater emphasis on the urban middle classes and youths in view of the changing demographic profile of the country and shrinking rural space.
While Rahul Gandhi talked of taking a "relook at the system" and "transforming" things completely, Sonia Gandhi categorically said that "we cannot allow our growing educated and middle classes to be disillusioned and alienated from the political process".
Rahul Gandhi also disapproved of granting tickets to such leaders who, he said, come to the party only to contest polls and fly out after getting defeated.
"We have to change this," he told the AICC meeting. Amid repeated applause from partymen, Gandhi regretted that when the time of granting ticket in election comes, the grassroot worker is ignored and the ticket is given following instructions from top to someone who has arrived from some other party.
He said that Congress worker should get respect and those partymen who contest as independent after denying tickets or put up independent candidates needed to be proceeded against.
The Jaipur declaration adopted at the AICC meeting today also said, "Congress acknowledges that there is a rising educated and aspirational middle class, especially in urban area. We will continue to create new opportunities for them and a climate conducive to their advancement."
Rahul, in his speech, signalled major changes in the working of the party but sought to allay apprehensions that he would ignore the seniors.
The Jaipur declaration gave an inkling of what was in the offing with the 56-point document making it clear that nepotism in the organisation's structure is a cause of concern and wanted leaders to take responsibility in case of failure if they recommend a candidate.
Infact, youth was the flavor of the three-day exercise with the party chief herself calling for developing leadership at all levels, by identifying, promoting and training them.
"Engaging the youth more centrally to our organisation is necessary. Only in this way, we can develop and project our new leadership," Gandhi said.
The focus on the youth and the middle classes came after leaders like Digivijay Singh pitched for appropriate measures from the party as the changing demographic profile showed that those below 45 form the majority.
The AICC meeting saw fulsome praise for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from both Sonia and Rahul.
Summing up the central theme of the Jaipur Declaration, senior leader P Chidambaram said that it recorded the core ideology of the party that "Congress must fearlessly, proudly, stoutly hug the middle ground and claim to the sole representative of the vast majority of people".
"The vast majority of people occupies the middle ground," he said adding that it is only when we dilute this core ideology of Congress and turn to extreme left or extreme right that "we stumble".
In a move apparently aimed at developing new leadership at various levels, the Declaration restricted the number of terms for presidents of Pradesh Congress Committees and District Congress Committees to two and the tenure to be not more than three years.
Promising to create ten million jobs every year, the Declaration spoke about two Indias and pledged to speak for both the young middle class India and the young deprived India.
Describing the Declaration as an "important" document, the party chief in her concluding remarks said "if we follow the document, there can be no obstacle" to the Congress march to power.
"Congress will go to the people on the basis of performance of the Congress-led UPA government, the promise of stability and good governance and a restatement of its core values and ideology---secularism, nationalism, social justice, social cohesion and economic growth for all especially the Aam Admi representing the poor and the middle class," the Declaration said thereby redefining the party’s Aam Admi definition.
All India Youth Congress President Rajiv Satav thanked the Congress President for giving a large representation to youths at Chintan Shivir, recalling that in two earlier party conclaves held at Shimla and Pachmadi, only two representatives from NSUI and Youth Congress were given the opportunity to participate.
He also thanked Gandhi for handing over the responsibility to Rahul and expressed confidence that it will change the party.
"This is the country's oldest party and going to become the youngest party. Last two to four years, there have been demands that Rahul Gandhi should accept a bigger responsibly. Now, Rahul has taken command of Congress in his hands, we have got a new captain in Rahul," he said at the AICC meeting.
NSUI delegate from Manipur, Angellica Aribam, raised the issue of racial discrimination faced by people of North East and other parts of the country, including the national capital.
She said there is a need to spread awareness about various cultures existing in the county.
She also said she is confident that problem of insurgency in North East and the issue of human rights violation will be given priority by the party and the government.
Rajindra Kaur Bhattal referred to Rahul as "rising son" and thanked him for accepting the post which is "full of difficulties," in times of difficulties for the party.
Union minister A K Antony said that emergence of Rahul is a revolution.
"Congress is an old party and the only party which can keep the nation united. Congress has seen revolutions and emergence of Rahul is also a revolution," he said.
Antony said the party will adopt new strategies, programmes and decisions, but the core values of secularism and nationalism will remain the same.
The Defence Minister also remembered the supreme sacrifice made by Indian soldiers, and said it would always be remembered.
Union Minister Manish Tiwari, targeting BJP and other opposition parties, alleged that it had conspired to defame the UPA on corruption issue, but Congress always took action against those involved in wrongdoing, which no other party had done.
He said when UPA-I formed the government in 2004, the country was "not shining" and there was an impact of Gujarat massacre, but the government made policies to strengthen the fundamental structure in the country and created an environment so that India could grow internationally.
"In 2009 also, people of this country gave us mandate but forces from the south could not accept it and conspired to defame the UPA with alleged corruption," he said.
Union Minister of State Sachin Pilot said Congress is the only party which can keep the nation's future bright.
"Congress represents all classes and communities and is the future of the country. It is the only party which can keep the country's future bright," he said.
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