Debating India

Cong differ on Ayodhya, pro-US line

Rajesh Ramachandran

Wednesday 9 July 2003, by RAMACHANDRAN*Rajesh

Article du Times of India, ?dition en ligne du 8 juillet 2003.

SHIMLA: The high profile committee on political challenges at the Congress conclave here saw sharp differences not just on alliances, but on Ayodhya, WTO, the party’s pro-US policy and the long treatise on the international situation.

If the draft document had nothing on Ayodhya, it also took an unabashedly pro-US line. ``The Congress party acknowledges the high importance of India’s relation with the US.’’ This appeared to be an attempt to balance the party’s position against sending Indian troops to Iraq.

But by Tuesday afternoon, certain Congress leaders asserted that the pro-US line has to be dropped and the party’s position on Ayodhya should be incorporated in the Shimla Sankalp. (The Congress has all along maintained that the Ayodhya issue should be resolved through a judicial verdict).

The party seems to have decided to highlight the cynical use of terrorism by the BJP and to attack the government for lack of defence preparedness. This, according to the party, does not lie in negligently letting foreign agencies operate in the country.

The Congress has harped on its experience in Punjab as the right way to tackle terrorism, claiming success through an effective combination of police and political action. Yet, it has not deviated from the Jammu and Kashmir government’s ``healing touch’’ policy. The party has stated that it believes in internal dialogue with all groups in Kashmir and dialogue with Pakistan.

Reservation was another hot topic that led to serious deliberations in the committee on social empowerment. Reservation in higher judiciary and the proposal to give incentives to corporates like tax holidays to encourage quota in jobs for Dalits, Muslims, OBCs and women in the private sector were debated. However, many upper caste leaders expressed their reservations on this.

Yet, it seems the proposal might get carried through in the final declaration, by balancing it with reservation for the poor among the upper castes. Also, the Karnataka experiment in reservation for Muslims in government jobs and reservation in private professional educational institutes have been commended by the committee in its approach paper.

The committee on election preparedness has proposed specific recommendations on selecting candidates: wherever the party has failed repeatedly in Parliament elections, the committee wanted candidates to be declared as early as six months. In similar assembly constituencies, the time-frame is three months with the general emphasis on declaring candidates at least a month prior to the elections.

A categoric suggestion has been on not giving the ticket to those who join the party on the eve of elections. Though the focus of the committee was on organisational rejuvenation, the participants veered around the issue of alliances. Former UP party chief Arun Kumar Munna apparently asserted that the party need not even consider a Second Front because it does not require alliances in most states.

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