Bullet points: What the 6 Congress panels recommended at Chintan Shivir

Bullet points: What the 6 Congress panels recommended at Chintan Shivir

The convenors of the coordination panels sought to cover various issues concerning not only the party but also the country

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On the second day of the Chintan Shivir, the Congress conclave being held in Udaipur, the six panels constituted by party president Sonia Gandhi put forth their suggestions and recommendations for the way forward for the party. On Sunday, May 15, these were placed before the Congress Working Committee (CWC) for discussion and vetting.

The recommendations that get the CWC’s approval will finally be incorporated in the Udaipur Declaration, set to be made as the conclave closes.

Also read: Why the Congress is still relevant, vitally so

The convenors of the six coordination panels – Mallikarjun Kharge (political issues), P Chidambaram (economy), Mukul Wasnik (organisation), Salman Khurshid (social justice & empowerment), Bhupinder Hooda (farmers and agriculture) and Amrinder Singh Raja Warring (youth empowerment) – sought to cover various issues concerning not only the party but also the country.

The Federal encapsulates the key points of each of the panels.

Mallikarjun Kharge’s panel on political issues

  • “There are attacks on and undermining of the  Constitution by the current regime.”
  • “There is misuse of and assault on autonomous institutions.”
  • “The party will expose the BJP’s fake nationalism.”
  • “There is Chinese occupation of Indian territory.”
  • “We will bring together all like-minded parties who oppose the BJP together.”
  • On alliances: “The priority is setting the house in order first. Once we have done this, then we will move forward to explore alliances.”

Also read: All eyes on Udaipur as Congress gets set to conclude Chintan Shivir

Amrinder Singh Raja Warring’s panel on youth empowerment

  • Intra-party policy of 50 below 50: “Around 50 per cent of office bearers across the board in the party, from block level up to the CWC, will have members aged below 50, while keeping diversity (representation for women, Dalits, tribals, backward castes, etc) in mind.”
  • “We will explore legislative backing for Right to Job, beginning with the two states where the Congress is currently in power on its own — Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.”
  • “We will hold sustained agitation, asking the Centre to fill up over 30 lakh vacancies in government jobs, and over 2 lakh vacancies in the armed forces.”
  • “We will hold agitations demanding a thorough investigation into repeated instances of leak of exam papers for various government recruitment and other exams, and the  arrest and prosecution of the culprits.”

P Chidambaram’s panel on economy

“Along with nine colleagues, I steer a discussion on the economy,” said Chidambaram. “There are 60 members in our group.  Yesterday, 37 members expressed their views for over four hours.” The following are the broad conclusions of the panel as well as the remarks from Chidambaram’s press conference:

  •  “State of the Indian economy is a cause for extreme concern.  A slower rate of growth has been the hallmark of the present government over the past eight years. Post-pandemic recovery has been indifferent and halting.  The growth estimates of 2022-23 have been lowered from time to time in the last five months.

Also read: Chintan Shivir: Sonia as tough on Modi govt as on Congress revival, but…

  • “Inflation has risen to unacceptable levels, and threatens to rise further.”
  • “The GST compensation period that expires on June 30, 2022 must be extended by at least three years. We will strongly oppose it if the extension is not granted.”
  • “Banning wheat exports is an anti-farmer measure.”

Also read: At Chintan Shivir, Cong mulls narratives to reboot ‘endangered’ social justice politics

  • “We are 30 years down the road since the 1991 budget. The world has changed. It is time to reset — not just review but reset — the economic policies. I can’t give you details of what policies we want reset because our discussions are still going on but there is certainly a feeling that much has changed in 30 years and the policies have to be reset accordingly. What policies we would finally want to recalibrate and prepare afresh will be decided once our discussions are over and the CWC decides on the final economic resolution. Let me make one thing clear though — we are not stepping back from the 1991 liberalisation policies, we want to take steps forward to build further.”
  • On inflation: “India cannot cite the rise in oil prices or the Ukraine war as the reason for high inflation. All the high prices domestically  predate these developments. These are lame excuses.”
  • “Once the CWC signs off on the economic resolution, we will put forth a vision for economic policy.”
  • On the falling rupee: “Candidate Modi in the run-up to 2014 had said if elected to power, the rupee exchange rate would be brought to 40. Clearly, he had no idea how.”
  • “High inflation and the threat of higher interest rates are the two main reasons for a decline in rupee value. The government doesn’t understand this simple thing.”
  • On unemployment, stalling of recruitment in govt jobs: “Since 2019, vacancies in government jobs, paramilitary forces have consistently increased. This is anti-youth, anti-SC/ST and anti-EWS (economically weaker sections). If you (Centre) as the country’s largest employer don’t fill these vacancies, where will these people find jobs?”
  • On the Gyanvapi survey: “The Places of Worship Act was passed after deep discussion and deliberation by the Narsimha Rao government. The only exception made in the Act was the already sub judice matter of Ayodhya. We believe that the Act must be adhered to.”

Bhupinder Hooda’s panel on farmers and agriculture

The panel’s members who addressed a briefing, apart from Hooda, were Shaktisinh Gohil, Nana Patole, TS Singh Deo, Partap Singh Bajwa and Akhilesh Prasad Singh. Their recommendations and remarks include:

  • Hooda: “Before the Shivir, we held discussions with various kisan sanghathans (farmer groups) and other stakeholders. Forty party leaders have also shared their views so far during the Shivir. Among other issues, we have discussed at length farmers’ indebtedness that has doubled under the Modi government, which had promised doubling farmer income by 2022.”
  • “We discussed the setting up of a national farm debt relief commission to resolve the debt problems of farmers through conciliation and negotiation just as we do for industries. Agriculture should be treated as an industry.”
  • “We discussed measures to go from the policy of karz maafi (loan write-off) to karz mukti (freedom from loans). Legally enforceable right to MSP as per the MS Swaminathan formula is part of this discussion. Expanding the MSP regime to all agri produce to ensure and encourage the diversification of produce is also a proposal.”
  • “The Fasal Bima Yojana in its current form is not successful because of skewed assessment and high premium. This needs to be redrawn, with clauses for universal insurance of all crops. The sector should be run by PSUs and not private companies. No profit, no loss should be the thumb rule for these insurance companies. Insurance must also factor in climate change challenges to farming. We also need a proper definition of ‘kisan’.”
  • The 3 scrapped farm laws: “I don’t mind private mandis as long as the government brings legally binding MSP. Buying a crop without giving MSP to the farmer should be made punishable under law. If this condition is accepted, I have no problem with private mandis. If the government tries to bring in the three farm laws through the backdoor after admitting that the laws are not in the interest of the farmers and without legal backing for MSP, we will oppose the laws tooth and nail.
  • Patole: “Need to integrate MNREGA labour with agri/farm labour.”
  • Deo: “NYAY, the Congress’ minimum income guarantee scheme, has been implemented in Chhattisgarh through various mechanisms under different schemes. We have presented these at the Chintan Shivir and discussed how we can work on this front in other states, too.”
  • “We also discussed ways of monetising cow dung — something Chhattisgarh has already started. This will bring major benefits to farmers and livestock traders as well as self-help groups. It also gives a boost to organic farming.”
  • Kisan ka karz half, bijli maaf (halving farmers’ debt, giving free electricity):  Through subsidies and DBT, we have to explore ways of reducing farmers’ dependence on loans and bring their electricity bill down to zero.”
  • “The subsidy model needs to be reworked in such a way that every requirement of a farmer is taken care of. There is no point in giving a farmer subsidy for something that the farmer doesn’t need. For instance, if a farmer doesn’t use a tube well, of what use is a tube well subsidy to him? He may require subsidies for something else which is not covered under the current model, so we have to be mindful of these needs.”
  • Bajwa: “We are firm in demanding legal guarantees for MSP. Today, the Modi government has banned wheat exports. This was the time to give wheat farmers a chance to earn from every possible avenue; the ban will have a direct negative impact on farmer income.”
  • Akhilesh Pratap Singh: “Proposals for building Kisan Model Schools on the lines of Navodaya Vidyalaya, the need for a separate Kisan Budget, and a scheme for concessional rate for farmers to buy small cars were among some of the proposals discussed at the Shivir.”

Salman Khurshid’s panel on social justice & empowerment

Along with Khurshid, Digvijaya Singh, Kumari Selja, K Raju and Gurdeep Sappal gave a briefing. These were their remarks as well as panel recommendations:

  • Raju: “Three broad categories of reforms were discussed. First, organisational reforms are needed to show to the weaker sections that the party is committed to SC/ST/minorities. Many organisational reforms are needed on this front and we have discussed these.”
  • “The social justice advisory council will give regular inputs to the Congress president on how to win the confidence of SC, ST, OBC, and minorities.”
  • “Currently, the Congress has 20 per cent reservation for SC, ST, OBC and minorities in various party committees. We want to take it up to 50 per cent.”
  • “There are many sub-castes under SC and ST which are not represented in the party. Special attention to identify such sub-castes and give them representation will be made.”
  • “Once in six months, there will be a special session of the Congress just to discuss issues facing SC, ST OBC and minorities.”
  • Second, the panel looked at policy measures to be taken where Congress is in power.”
  • “The party has to express its commitment to socio-economic caste-based census.”
  • “Central legislation on SC/ ST sub-plan for financial allocation is needed.”
  • “The party will back demand for reservation in private sector for SC, ST, OBC categories.”
  • “There will be policy to provide reservation to OBCs in legislatures and in Parliament.”
  • “We will renew the demand for the implementation of women’s reservation but with a quota within quota of proportionate representation for SC/ST/ OBC, and minorities.”
  • Selja: “There is an overarching need for empowerment of women across SC, ST, OBC and minorities.”
  • “We discussed how the Congress can do this within the organisation and also to demand this politically and socially beyond the party.”
  • “There was also a focused discussion on rights for transgenders as well as differently abled persons as these sections often get left out or ignored.”
  • Khurshid on party U-turn on women’s reservation (the party was opposed to quota within quota when it brought the Bill in 2009): “We had to do that as part of a strategy keeping in mind the politics and needs at that time as we thought a quota within quota would have been difficult to evolve consensus on with our allies and other parties. Now much time has passed and politics too has changed. There is no inconsistency, we are responding to the present needs.

Mukul Wasnik’s panel on party organisation

  • “The party will consider the ‘one family, one ticket’ formula.”
  • “A second member from a family can get a ticket only if he/she has worked in the organisation for five years.”
  • Ajay Maken: “There is near consensus on this formula…A relative or son of an old leader straightaway comes and fights polls. The formula will be applicable to all in the party, including the Gandhi family.”
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