Congress finally accepts principle of plurality
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Congress finally accepts principle of plurality

It put Manmohanics into hibernation and fell back on recast version of Garibi Hatao slogan at the Shimla conclave, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2003 13:48 IST

Four clear messages emerged from the three day Vichar Manthan Shivir of the Congress which concluded in Shimla on Wednesday. The party has accepted the principle of plurality (coalitions), decided to uphold secular values which formed the basis of our Nationhood, given a blueprint for development and has put forward a recipe to capture its mass base by enunciating the millennium version of Indira Gandhi's 20 point programme.

In the process, there is a marked shift in its economic policy which has come back towards left of the centre from the right of the centre. In short, Manmohanics has been put into hibernation for some time as the Congress has reverted back to the tried and trusted formula which had helped Indira Gandhi secure the massive mandate to defeat the Grand Alliance of forces which had put up candidates against her and the party in 1971. At the core of the declaration is the recast version of the Garibi Hatao slogan which talks of ``Congress ka haath, Garib ke saath'', a slogan used by Sonia Gandhi during Himachal elections.

The party has also spelt out in clear terms that on Ayodhya, only a court settlement was acceptable or in case there was a negotiated settlement then it had to have a legal sanction.

The Shimla Sankalp which was adopted by a show of hands unanimously defines the Congress road map for coming back to power. It goes a step further from Panchmarhi, Bangalore and Srinagar conclaves of the party and spells out in clear terms the willingness of the party to lead a coalition of "progressive thinking men and women, institutions and political movements who share our understanding of India's past, our concerns with India's present and our vision of India's future to join us in this historic endeavour''.

Implicit in the resolve is the open minded approach of the party on pre-poll and post alliances which would have to carved out at the national level with the Congress as the senior partner and Sonia Gandhi as its leader.

The symbolism used by Sonia Gandhi to send signals throughout the country also had the distinct mark of Indira Gandhi whose actions and politics, the Congress chief is seeking to emulate. The draft of the Sankalp was read out by Kumari Selja, a young AICC secretary from Haryana who in the her opening remarks thanked the Congress chief for giving the honour to the daughter of a dalit. In fact by choosing Selja, the congress identified itself with the Dalits, the youth, the women and other disadvantaged groups of society.

To drive home that Rajiv Gandhi's inspiration was also the driving force of the party, the resolve recalled his efforts to establish a nuclear free world. "As a part of this process, the Congress believes in the need for initiating a dialogue with our nuclear neighbours for confidence building measures and for managing the consequences of nuclearisation''.

To establish linkages with the past, the resolve committed the party to Jawaharlal Nehru's vision of foreign policy. For Congress non alignment has essentially meant independence of foreign policy. The document made references to the contribution of Mahatama Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Subhash Chandra Bose, Acharya Kriplani and Kamaraj amongst other stalwarts. The document did not mention Hindutva or lay any special emphasis on minorities. It attacked fundamentalist forces led by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar and also took the NDA government to task for its colossal failure on all fronts.

"The Indian National Congress re-emphasizes its unwavering commitment to fight fundamentalism of all kinds''.

It further "acknowledged the support, goodwill and affection of all sections of our society, particularly the weaker sections like dalits, adivasis, OBCs, minorities and women. There was a conscious attempt to draw a distinction between Hindus and fundamentalist parties headed by the Sangh parivar while the minorities were clubbed with other sections.

In short, the Sankalp has been drafted very carefully with each word and sentence open to interpretation. Sonia Gandhi told the HT on Tuesday night that she would set up a monitoring apparatus to see that it was implemented unlike the Panchamarhi declaration.

First Published: Jul 09, 2003 13:40 IST