If Rahul Gandhi’s elevation inevitably overshadowed the three-day long chintan shivir of the Congress, the Jaipur Declaration, which emerged at the conclusion of the deliberations, did address issues that will be critical in the coming months as the party prepares itself for the 2014 general election.
The Declaration acknowledged the need to take on board the concerns of the aspiring middle class and the youth, even as it made a slew of suggestions both for the empowerment and security ofwomen, subjects that Congress president Sonia Gandhi highlighted in her two speeches, one at the start of the chintan shivir on January 18 and the other before Sunday’s AICC session.
In the section on ‘Political Challenges’, the Declaration says: “The Congress recognises there is a new aspiration for advancement among the people, especially among the youth and the middle class … The Congress pledges to speak for both the young middle class India and the young deprived India.” It goes on to say that the party “will be responsive to the new aspirations of the youth and will offer credible policies and programmes, especially job creating programmes.”
Similarly in the section on ‘Emerging Socio-Economic Challenges’, the document acknowledges “that there is a rising educated and aspirational middle class, especially in urban areas, and adds that a climate conducive to their advancement must be created. In the same section, it says that the Congress will “take all steps to enable India to reap the demographic dividend” by creating “10 million jobs every year and impart skills training to youth to take up these jobs, even as it “pledges to create a business environment conducive to investment and entrepreneurship.”
If a woman delegate from Maharashtra, Rajni Patil, urged the leadership in a speech at the AICC session on Sunday to introduce a new slogan — Congress ka haath, mahilaon ke saath (the Congress extends its hand to women), the Jaipur Declaration anticipated that demand by making a range of promises to improve the status and condition of women.
For security, it has promised to expedite the creation of helplines in all major urban centres, exclusive transport facilities, and gender sensitivity classes for police personnel registering and investigating crimes against women.
It also promises a larger number of scholarships for schoolgirls, earmarking 30 per cent of funds flowing into panchayats and nagarpalikas for female agricultural labour and cultivators, increase in participation of women in government, including in the police, at all levels through reservation, building the capacity of women’s self-help groups and pensions for destitute women.
The Declaration also reiterates the party’s commitment to enact a law that will reserve a third of the seats in Parliament and the State legislatures for women.
It simultaneously stressed the need for political mobilisation “to ensure peace in areas where militancy, insurgency and left-wing extremism exist.”
Referring to the host of rights-based legislation such as Right to Education that the UPA government passed and intends to pass (such as the Food Security Act), the document says that the party “will play an active role in making people aware of these legislation and how to benefit from them. It will also make people aware how they can become a force for improving implementation and monitoring of these legislation.”