Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, articulating the philosophy of the Congress developmental strategy, said the party's emphasis on the empowerment of the people was backed by legal enactments. “They are not merely confined to resolutions,” he said, elaborating on the statement he piloted at the AICC session here on Tuesday.
In the last six and half years, the Congress developmental strategy had changed radically, with the Right to Information, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Right to Education — all entitlements — now backed by legal enactments. “I don't know [of] any [other] country in the world which has given the legal right to food to its people,” Mr. Mukherjee said referring to the UPA government's plans to do that for a large section of the population.
He stressed that while economic growth was on the right track, inflation and food prices continued to cause concern. “When prices are high, the poor are the worst hit.” This was why the government was keen on putting in place the Food Security Act.
Taking a swipe at the fondness of political parties in West Bengal for bandhs, he said, “If a Bharat Bandh could bring down prices, I would be the first to call one.”
Breaking with tradition, the Congress decided to issue a short statement flagging several current affairs issues rather than pass full-fledged resolutions on a slew of subjects, which have been reserved for the plenary session in December. The statement, read out by Mr. Mukherjee, was followed by his exposition of a few elements in it, and short speeches by party leaders Girija Vyas, Ramesh Chennithala, Meenakshi Natarajan, Madhusudan Mistry, Hemananda Biswal, Rashid Alvi and, of course, Rahul Gandhi.
The subjects included communalism, the focus on the aam aadmi, Jammu and Kashmir, Naxalism, and the need to swiftly undertake time-bound implementation of the Integrated Action Plan in tribal and backward areas. The statement also focussed on the stellar role played by Youth Congress under Mr. Gandhi's leadership in bringing about “a new era of inclusive participation of youth in national service through an election-based political process at the grass-roots level.”
Mr. Gandhi referred to his intensive travels across the country and interactions with a cross-section of people. “I have understood clearly that it is only the poor people who can take the country forward. And if we have to take the poor people forward, the Prime Minister's strategy for economic growth is a necessity.”
Rahul speaks of two Hindustans
Continuing, he expanded: “There are two Hindustans — one is growing very fast and the other is for the poor [which is in crisis] ... We have to connect and unite the two.” The Congress, he said, was the only party that could do this as all other parties were “either regional, or based on caste or religion.”