Congress president Sonia Gandhi has rolled out a “drought-code’’ for her colleagues.
Starting September, all Congress MPs, legislators and salaried officeholders will contribute for a year 20 per cent of their basic salary towards the state and central exchequer in a symbolic gesture of solidarity with those battling drought and price rise.
The pay cut, she proposed at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Wednesday, may not amount to much as the basic salary of an MP, instance, is just Rs 16,000 a month.
But her second exhortation calls for a change in lifestyle most Congressmen may find it hard to deal with.
Gandhi wants her elected representatives to observe austerity and avoid vulgar display of wealth. Henceforth, there will be no first or business class travel for them if the exchequer is involved.
Taking a cue from Gandhi, who presided over the meeting, a participant flagged the issue of some members redoing their bungalows and offices at great expense. Senior leader Pranab Mukherjee suggested a slash in expenses by holding Standing Committees meetings in Delhi and not outside. But, he added, the suggestion has to be made to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.
The call for austerity is part of the four-point CWC resolution adopted at the nearly two hour meeting which was attended by 52 of the 55 members including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief ministers.
The absentees were Rahul Gandhi, Digvijay Singh and Vilasrao Deshmukh.
While appreciating the steps being taken by the PM, the resolution spelt out the CWC’s wish list from party workers and the government.
It asked the government to keep the “strictest vigil” and take proactive steps to keep prices, specially of basic foodgrains, in check, make them affordable and available through the PDS to the common man.
“Activities like hoarding which create artificial scarcities should be checked and hoarders should be punished in the strictest possible ways,’’ it said.
This, the PM intervened, has to be done by the chief ministers.
Earlier speaking at the CWC, Singh had detailed the steps taken to deal with drought and price rise and was hopeful of tackling the problem. And with the party asking for “proactive steps’’ he talked of regular monitoring of relief measures and favoured a new mission mode for increasing production of pulses and oilseeds to hold the price line.
By and large, the CWC resolution was in line with Gandhi’s recent letter to Pradesh Congress Committee chiefs on managing drought, involving workers in relief measures and enforcing implementation of NREGA.