Congress plans new deal for weaker groups

Quota within quota for the Women’s Reservation bill, clear support for caste-based census, proposal to have reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in legislature and Parliament, reservation in the private sector — the Congress is getting ready to offer a new deal to important social groups in order to make a political comeback.

All these proposals were shared on Saturday on Day 2 of the Nav SankalpChintan Shivir by the party’s panel on social justice but the final decision would depend upon the approval by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) on Sunday.

The closed door sessions of different panels also saw intense debate on the party adopting a soft Hindutva line on different occasions, discussion on the need to have separate general secretaries to manage elections, communication and the need to have a separate training institution for workers on party ideology.

The demand to provide separate quota for scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), OBCs and minorities within the 33 per cent reservation for women in legislature and Parliament is a significant departure from Congress’ earlier position and reflects its willingness to build a new constituency among women from these communities.

Raise reservation to 50%

As a first step, the party announced that it would change the party’s constitutional provision of providing for 20% reservation for SCs, STs, OBCs and minorities, and raise it to 50%.

K. Raju, a member of the social justice panel and coordinator to oversee the activities of the Congress’ SC/OBC/Minority Departments, said, “The group has discussed and decided that in the short run, we must step up this to 50%. Fifty per cent reservation in all the committees starting with booth committees, block committees, district committees, PCCs and the CWC, be provided”.

Other important suggestions include setting up a social justice advisory group, focus on sub-castes and groups of SCs and STs and conducting special meetings of CWC, Pradesh Congress Committees and District Congress Committees every six months.

Stand vis-a-vis Hindutva

In the Mallikarjun Kharge-headed panel on politics, senior leaders debated on the party’s position with regard to Hindutva. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is said to have argued he has not allowed the BJP to do politics over Hindutva by focussing on programmes like Ram Van Gaman path and the Ramayana tourism circuit.

Acharya Pramod, who had contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections against Rajnath Singh from Lucknow, is said to have urged his colleagues not to attack bhagwa (saffron) colour.

Also read | Do not change status of places of worship: Chidambaram

There were also discussions on increasing the party’s association with cultural groups to regain political support.

Many leaders in the political group also argued for a larger role for Priyanka Gandhi Vadhera instead of restricting her to Uttar Pradesh, where she is currently the general secretary.

While the Chintan Shivir has generally seen a push for promoting youth, one Lok Sabha member from Kerala cautioned the party by pointing out how the experiment to give tickets to youth in the Assembly elections failed last year as only 2 of the 52 youth candidates managed to win.

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