Congress 'Chintan Shivir' at Udaipur not meant to prepare manifesto or coin slogans but to review & reflect
Politics since 2014 has taken a new majoritarian turn, it has become combative rather than adversarial and the media has chosen to take sides, points out former Union Minister Salman Khurshid
The Chintan Shivir at Udaipur between May 13 and May 16 will be historic in many ways in the backdrop of similar historic gatherings at Simla, Panchmarhi, Bengaluru et al. Each of those came at critical moments and the outcomes invariably contributed to successful strides in electoral politics.
The remarkable success of structuring the UPA however led to several crises in the latter part of the ten years in power. Some of the stress might have come from within due to unexpected fallout of far reaching decisions but most of it came from the impetus given to disruptive politics by forces who felt inadequate in challenging the social safety network (DBT, NREGA, NRHM, RTE et al) and social empowerment (RTI, Panchayati Raj) by the UPA and therefore sought to raise bogeys of corruption (2G, coal allocations) which ultimately failed the test of judicial scrutiny but not before causing immeasurable damage to the reputation of leaders and derailing economic growth.
That drag continued from state elections (Delhi) to the national elections in 2014 but with the additional flavour of majoritarian aspirations. Thus, as we in the Congress prepare to recapture lost political ground, we have a heavy backlog of material to respond to and convincingly expose. But the most urgent battle is for the hearts and mind of our people to keep the Idea of India alive. The Udaipur conclave is thus as much about our future as a political party as indeed about how we can help the country in these testing times.
We are now faced with a peculiar Review & Reflection at Udaipur The Chintan Shivir is neither meant to keep party ranks busy nor to write the party manifesto or to coin clever slogans, writes former Union Minister Salman Khurshid combination of big money and doctored minds, not to speak of massive propaganda machines. Economic distress and snowballing prices have taken the back seat. It is in this situation that we have turned to serious reflection in Udaipur to refresh our resolve and sharpen our strategy.
Around 400 carefully picked leaders and party workers will attend the Shivir, divided into six groups led by panels on Political affairs, Agriculture, Social Justice & Empowerment, Economics, Youth and Organisation.
Inevitably, the political panel will be the cutting edge for the party’s endeavour to be fighting fit for 2024. This effort will be vigorously supported with thought content by the Social Justice, Economics and Agriculture panels. The Youth panel will attempt to capture the imagination and ambitions of the youth.
Our experience tells us that organisational strength is the core of political campaigns and here specific commitment to inclusive participation of all communities equitably, especially those considered disadvantaged socially and politically, and fortified with state-of-the-art communications and modern electoral machines will challenge the incumbents in office.
Amongst the most betrayed citizens in recent years are the farmers and farm sector workers. They are also the custodians of a sector that awaits justice despite being providers of food to the entire population and yet most vulnerable to the market economy. The agriculture panel will look at correcting the wrongs that have burdened the sector because of institutional myopia and neglect.
The Economics panel has its job cut out, given the grim economy. The Political and the Social Justice panels will attempt to deal with issues that are deliberately raised by the ruling party and their collaborators periodically to obfuscate their failures on the governance front. Some of those can be very sensitive but turning a blind eye to them has done us little good in the past.
The purpose of the Shivir is not to write the manifesto for the state elections in the next two years and the General Elections in 2024 but to examine issues in depth and relate them with the prevailing thinking of the voter. Opinions that are inconsistent with our ideology will need preparation of antidotes.
As we emerge from frank deliberations, the Congress party’s message based not on empty slogans and platitudes but seriously analysed propositions of substance will hopefully reach the masses and opinion makers in society. This is not just another exercise to keep the ranks busy but a defining moment in our history. The Congress aims to participate in a nationwide conversation for which the agenda will be set at Udaipur. It will also be an opportunity to show solidarity with our leadership who have with courage and dedication steered us through difficult times.
(The writer is a former External Affairs Minister, lawyer and prominent INC leader)
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)