The political system must be cleansed and changed as corruption is most rampant there, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi said here on Monday, giving a clarion call to young people to join politics and participate in that transformation.
“Corruption is most rampant in political parties…This political system must be cleansed and changed. And only the youth of the country can do that,” he said.
Mr. Gandhi was addressing the first-ever convention of 8,000 elected Youth Congress (YC) office-bearers at Rohini, on the north western edge of the national capital. Evocatively named Buniyaad or “foundation,” the object of the two-day convention is to showcase the “transformation” in the 11 million-strong YC, in the wake of internal elections in that organisation in 20 States from the block to the State level.
“Neither Rahul Gandhi nor any other senior leader has selected you; you are here because of your own merit, strength and capacity,” Mr. Gandhi stressed.
The party's seniors lined up to speak at the convention, lifting the profile of the occasion. In a nod to his seniors, Mr. Gandhi said, “We need to combine the experience, wisdom and depth of our senior leaders with that of youth power.”
Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram gave an inspirational speech at the session that was open to the media on Monday on the need for the YC to ensure that the Congress held firmly to the “middle ground,” eschewing extremism of all sorts — religious, caste-based, of political ideology or even those related to economic ideology. “There are those who believe that the benefits of economic reforms will trickle down gradually to the poor — I reject that belief,” he said. The Home Minister also stressed that it was time older leaders stepped back to make way for younger leaders.
Later, during the closed-door session, when the political, economic and organisational resolutions were discussed, several other leaders spoke: they included Defence Minister A.K. Antony; Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath; Ministers of State Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia; senior party office-bearers Janaradan Dwivedi and Oscar Fernandes; and MP Sanjay Nirupam. In the morning, general secretary Birendra Singh and Delhi Pradesh Congress chief J.P. Aggarwal spoke.
On Tuesday, Union Ministers Ambika Soni, Mukul Wasnik and Selja are expected to speak in the morning, and YC sources said they hoped Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, too, would show up. For the closing session on Tuesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit will be there.
On Monday, in a bid to demonstrate the diversity in the ranks of the 4,02,539 elected office-bearers, those who were called to the stage to speak included a Dalit woman from Kerala, a village schoolmaster's son from a Maoist-affected area in Chhattisgarh and a young Muslim woman, who is now an MLA and a Minister in the West Bengal government.
Of course, the YC's transformation is still incomplete, as the national office-bearers continue to be nominated. And even among those who have come through the election process, Mausam Noor, MP and elected West Bengal YC president, is the niece of the veteran Abdul Ghani Khan Chowdhury, just as Ravneet Singh Bittu, MP and Punjab YC president, is the grandson of the veteran Congress leader Beant Singh.
Curiously, while congratulating Mr. Gandhi for holding elections to party posts, K.J. Rao, former Adviser, Election Commission of India, who —along with the former Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyndgoh, — conducted the YC elections, stressed that “in the second round of elections, we should ensure that those with money power don't win.”