Hitting out at BJP, Cong political resolution lays out ‘social engineering’ blueprint

Party seeks to reclaim its dwindling support base among socially oppressed communities as well as the demographic bloc of women and youth, being aggressively wooed in by the BJP in recent years

Congress plenary, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, political resolution, Sonia Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Sonia Gandhi at the Congress plenary in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, on Saturday (February 25)

The political resolution adopted by the Congress Party at its 85th plenary session in Chhattisgarh’s Nava Raipur, on Saturday (February 25), has laid the groundwork for the Grand Old Party’s electoral pitch against the BJP for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Additionally, read alongwith some key amendments proposed in the Congress Constitution, the political resolution also gives a glimpse of a social engineering blueprint that the party hopes to adopt as a bid to reclaim its dwindling support base among historically and socially oppressed communities as well as the demographic bloc of women and youth, which have been aggressively wooed in by the BJP in recent years.

Strident on BJP

The political resolution takes off from the strident attacks that the Congress leadership of incumbent party chief Mallikarjun Kharge and his predecessors, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, has been consistently making against the BJP on issues such as the misuse of central probe agencies in intimidating political rivals, unbridled price rise, deepening communal strife, rising social inequity and the Narendra Modi government’s alleged patronage for select industrialists, particularly Gautam Adani. However, the nine-page resolution isn’t just a litany of complaints against the BJP-led central government as it also lays out remedies and correctives that the Congress would adopt against these lapses if it is voted back to power in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.


Also read: Cong economic resolution: ‘Party’s task now to lift bottom 50% of population’

The political resolution accuses the BJP of distorting “all three arms of government and the fourth estate of the media to protect their interests over the people’s interests” and asserts that “democracy is on the verge of being expunged from India”. It states that central agencies such as the ED, NIA, CBI and IT “are being grossly abused to intimidate and subjugate political opponents” while the BJP is also “undermining parliamentary democracy” by curtailing free discussions and debate in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies and “expunging the truth and suppressing the voices of the Opposition.”

Further, the resolution slams the Modi government for threatening the judiciary constantly “by direct and indirect measures” and accuses Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju of “leading the blatant attack on the judiciary”. The resolution also states that Modi and his government “are extending their grip on electronic, social, digital and print media, both within India and abroad” and alleges that “those who fearlessly speak their mind – journalists, activists, writers, and whistleblowers — are being persecuted and silenced.”

Reiterating its charge about the BJP brazenly curtailing freedom of expression and crushing dissent, the resolution states that, if voted to power, the Congress will “initiate a comprehensive review of all laws, rules and regulations to repeal those that are outdated, unjust, or unreasonably restrict the freedoms of the people.”

EVMs back in focus

Interestingly, the Congress’s old charge of misuse and manipulation of EVMs has also made a comeback with the resolution while the party has also called for scrapping the “fatally flawed and fully corrupt” electoral bonds scheme of the Modi government and replacing it with a transparent National Election Fund.

The Congress will set up a National Election Fund “to which all may contribute” and from which, during elections, “funds will be allocated to political parties using a transparent and fair criteria laid down by law,” states the resolution.

It adds, “More than 14 recognised political parties, several eminent activists, and computer scientists have raised concerns on the efficacy of EVMs to the Election Commission, but have not received any response so far. When voters lose faith in the integrity of the electoral process, especially EVMs, our democracy hollows from within. The Congress promises to restore the faith of every voter in the integrity of the electoral process. The Congress will build the widest possible consensus with all like-minded political parties to take up the issue with ECI, and if they do not respond, then go to Court.”

Also read: Cong, like-minded parties should move SC on misuse of probe agencies: Abhishek Singhvi

Threat to communal harmony

The most significant emphasis of the resolution, arguably, is on issues directly associated with the increasing assaults on communal harmony and social order over the past eight and a half years of the Modi regime. The Congress, which has often sought to, as Shashi Tharoor pointed out during Saturday’s discussions at the plenary, downplay or ignore such assault for fear of losing the majority community’s support or playing into the BJP’s trap of polarising politics, has now made a clear pitch for a “new law to prevent and punish hate crimes” and also “pass an Anti-Discrimination Law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, gender or language in the supply of goods and services that are made available to the public in general such as housing, hostels, hotels, clubs, etc.”

This push for reclaiming support of those most affected by hate crimes and discrimination – religious minorities (particularly the Muslims; although those drafting the resolution refrained from specifically mentioning the Muslim community), the Dalits, Adivasis, even the backward classes and women – could also be seen in the amendments to the Congress constitution that have been mooted by an intra-party panel headed by senior leader Ambika Soni.

Reservations in party positions

The panel has suggested that 50 per cent of all party positions, including at the all-powerful Congress Working Committee, must be reserved for SCs, STs, OBCs and religious minorities. Randeep Surjewala, convenor of the panel, informed that half of the positions thus reserved will be filled by Dalits and Adivasis alone.

Also read: Nation facing toughest challenge in 75 years, BJY brought hope: Kharge

This quota aside, the amendments proposed to the Congress constitution also call for a “horizontal reservation” of 50 per cent – in the reserved and unreserved categories – for women and youth as well as for ensuring that 50 per cent of all posts are filled by those party leaders who are aged below 50 years.

In fact, this stress on social engineering could also be seen, albeit tangentially, in the economic resolution that was adopted at the plenary session on Saturday. Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram, who summed up the economic resolution, made a strong case for ensuring that Congress “adopts the bottom 50 per cent” of India’s population “as our constituency” and that the party’s governments in the states and, if one is elected at the Centre, “must not hesitate, not flinch or be afraid to openly declare that from this day onwards the Congress’s economic policies will create work and create wealth but will ensure that it is equitably distributed so that the bottom 50 percent of the population will get the most benefit”.

Mass contact programmes

The political resolution does not explicitly state whether or not Rahul Gandhi will lead a second leg of his hugely popular Bharat Jodo Yatra to cover states across the breadth of the country that were left uncharted by the recently concluded 4,080-km walkathon from Kanyakumari to Srinagar. However, the resolution states that the “Congress resolves to continue mass contact programs to follow up to the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The ‘Haath se Haath Jodo Abhiyaan’ aims to reach every household. Similar efforts will continue on war footing… Congress party will prepare a Vision Document for 2024, following a largest-ever mass contact programme, which will encompass issues of unemployment, eradication of poverty, inflation, women empowerment, job creation, national security.”

Also read: Difficult struggle ahead but victory will be ours: Sonia Gandhi at Congress Plenary

The resolution, however, evades any definite pitch by the Grand Old Party on the tricky issue of Opposition Unity against the BJP in the run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, or on the Congress’s position within it. It merely states the “urgent need for a united opposition to take on the NDA on common ideological grounds” and that the “unity of secular and socialist forces will be the hallmark of the future of the Congress party”. It adds, “Congress should go all out to identify, mobilise and align like-minded secular forces… include secular regional forces who agree with our ideology” while also asserting that the “emergence of any third force will provide advantage to the BJP/NDA.”