The group on “Emerging Social and Economic Challenges” in the Congress party’s Chintan Shivir in Jaipur will set the tone for the United Progressive Alliance Government’s next round of reforms.

The group, headed by All-India Congress Committee General-Secretary, Digvijaya Singh, and attended by several Cabinet Ministers and senior leaders, will review the policy framework of the Union Government. The group will also chalk out strategies to make the reform process more “common-man friendly.”

Setting the tone, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said in her inaugural speech that people were expecting much more from political parties. She said today’s India was better informed and better equipped to communicate. “This is a natural and welcome outcome of the rapid economic and social change that has been brought about by the success of our programmes to educate, to empower and indeed to unshackle the oppressed and the disadvantaged,” she said.

Fed up of corruption

Keeping in mind the ongoing agitations against corruption and issues related to law and order, she reminded Congressmen that the citizens were “rightly fed up” with the levels of corruption in public life. Urging the party to understand and respond to this phenomenon, she said the Congress could not allow the growing educated and middle classes to be disillusioned and alienated from the political process.

Echoing her, a senior Cabinet Minister said he would take up the issues of the poor in the brainstorming session. The Minister, who has prepared a detailed presentation on the “State of the People,” said the party’s policies should cater to the poor too.

“Along with the middle class, we should be able to address the concerns of the poor. How this reform process has affected them has to be understood,” he added.

The group on emerging social and economic challenges is also likely to discuss issues such as price rise, welfare schemes and the proposed Food Security Act.

‘Introspect, look ahead’

The third brainstorming session of the Congress under Sonia Gandhi is being attended by about 200 top leaders of the party, along with about 165 young delegates. Sonia Gandhi, hoped that the session would help the party to “introspect and look ahead” and to “clarify and consolidate” its position.

She said inclusiveness is not a political ploy for the Congress to win elections or run Governments. “Inclusiveness is anchored in our conviction. It is not the outcome of any compulsion as it may be for some of our political opponents,” she said.

Admitting that the party was facing increased competition in its traditional bases, she said “revolutionary programmes” of the UPA Government were not translating into votes in some States and the party would have to think about it. She said the Congress must proactively take up the causes of those who protest on land, forest, water and livelihood issues.

(This article was published on January 18, 2013)
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