Dear Dr, Rajeev Gowda,
Thanks for writing to me inviting my suggestions for formulating the Congress Manifesto for the next 5 Years. Why only for next 5 years? It could be for the next 20 years provided we are sincere and do what we say. Look at the present dispensation. They promised the Sky but it turned out to be a damp squib at the end of 5 years. It will be a monumental folly if they are returned to power again. They should be returned to the dust bin of history where they truly belong. The 2014 elections that propelled Modi to power was essentially, as we all know, the result of anti- congress vote and not because of a pro- modi wave. Congress was hit by the 2G and Bofor scams and had to suffer the most humiliating defeat in its history. The party became synonymous with corruption. Now the immediate requirement is to project a new image of the Congress. This is the right time to do that. Rahul Gandhi has an untainted image. He can announce that ours is a rejuvenated Congress with the past mistakes behind us. Our aim is a new and vibrant India where poverty will become a thing of the past and where the welfare of the common man is held upper most. We had a good opportunity to demonstrate we meant business had we appointed the youngsters as CMs of Rajasthan and MP when we won the elections there. Corruption is the biggest hurdle to poverty alleviation and India’s development. With this as the main focus I give my views on the following issues:
1. LOKPAL: Appoint him within one month of swearing in. Apart of qualifications, he should be a person of highest integrity, honesty and non-partisan. The selection should be transparent with no room for political manipulation. He should be a free eagle and not a caged parrot. Also make all states to fall in line.
2. Women’s Reservation: Implement within 3 months. This is a long pending issue. Its immediate implementation will receive much appreciation not only from the women of India but from world over.
3. Farmer Distress: Loan waiver or cash transfer is not a permanent solution to this perennial problem. Besides, it will be a great injustice and insult to those who repay their loans on time. Our aim is to make him self-reliant. To start with implement MS Swaminathan Committee’s recommendations in toto, particularly in respect of “Cost + 50 % “.
4. Minority Rights: It is a shame we treat our minorities as second class citizens even 70 years after independence. Do whatever necessary to make them feel they are equal citizens of this country.
5. Law and Order: Come down heavily on vigilante groups, Lynch Mobs , Moral Police and the like. Open more fast track courts to try these goons and those involved in the killing of writers and intellectuals. Speed and certainty of punishment will act as a great deterrent.
6. Electoral Reforms: Wind up the system of funding parties through electoral bonds which has become the biggest source of corruption, the main beneficiary being the BJP. Instead explore an alternative method, including state funding, which is transparent and legal. Also explore ways to keep criminals and the corrupt out of politics.
7. Pollution Control: Encourage and develop renewable sources of energy while reducing the use of coal and fossil fuels. Provide incentives for use of electric vehicles. Draw up a viable plan for waste management and ensure strict implementation.
8. Education and Health: Allocate a good portion of our GDP to provide affordable quality education and health to all our people so as to become the first in HDI parameters at least in Asia if not the world. It is a shame that India is among the countries with lowest expenditure to GDP ratio on health and education.
9. Soldier Welfare: The OROP was introduced by the Congress. But the BJP by trying to cut corners, betrayed the soldier by failing to implement it fully as agreed upon. Here is an opportunity for the Congress to win back the confidence of the armed forces. Over the years the soldier’s status especially those of the officer cadre, vis –a – vis his civilian counterpart has been gradually downgraded leaving the officer cadre a demoralized lot. This has to be set right on priority.
10. Religion and state: India is a secular democracy where the Constitution is Supreme. Religion is a private affair and the state should have nothing to do with it. To start with cut off all the subsidies given to religious groups. Differences should be settled by the Supreme Court and the state should implement its decisions. You may lose some votes initially but it will do a lot of good to the unity and integrity of the country in the long run.
11. Restore the Credibility of our Institutions: CBI, ED, CVC and RBI are all in a mess due to BJP manipulations so much so that people have ceased to have any faith in these institutions. It should be the top most priority of the Congress to bring about changes so as to restore the credibility of these institutions.
12. Job creation: BJP promised 2 Crore jobs every year for our youth but ended up asking them to sell pakodas for a living. Their only aim was to make enough money to win the next election by using the 3 Ms - Money, Muscle and Mouth (Jumlas) of which the first M (Money ) is the most important for them. Come May the people will give them a befitting reply. But let us not make the same mistake. We can create more jobs by developing our infrastructure, opening our markets further for foreign investment and also by joining China”s OBOR and CPEC. BJP promised Start up India, Make in India etc. but did nothing to fulfil them. Let us do what the BJP has failed to do .
13. Corruption: While corruption at higher level should be dealt with a firm hand, it is at the lower levels the common man faces harassment in his day to day dealings with the authorities. Nothing moves without greasing the palm at every table. The corrupt have become so bold that the demand has become open and routine. It will be a great relief to the people, especially the poor, if something can be done to put a stop to these extortions. One way to stop this obnoxious practice could be to have a “ Single Window Clearance “ system where the need to interact with various tables is obviated. Anna Hazare has resumed his fast against corruption. An announcement by the Congress now that his idea of “ Citizens Charter “ would be included in its manifesto will revolutionise the whole outlook and help the party romp home to success with ease.
1. India-Pak relations : Let us enter into talks with them without any pre conditions. Let us accept Kashmir is the core problem between our countries. We can surely find a solution for this long simmering problem without redrawing the boundaries as suggested by MMS and accepted by Musharaff. To start with let there be free movement of people between the two countries by liberalising the visa regime. Sports and cultural relations can also be given a boost up as CBMs.
2. India China Relations : Try and solve the core problem between our countries. The core problem is boundary. Let us not be too rigid. There can be some give and take. Our offer to join China’s OBOR and CPEC projects can be a bargaining chip for an early solution to the boundary problem. Also assure them India will never join any alliance against China.
3. India and Neighbours : Except for Bangladesh and Maldives our relations with our neighbours leave much to be desired. Let us try and improve our relations with all our neighbours shedding the big brother attitude. Let us show them we are a reliable friend. The situation in SriLanka inrespect of Tamil minorities should be a direct concern to us because of its fall out in Tamilnadu. Let us nudge the Srilankan government to implement the 13th Amendment in toto which confers devolution of powers to the North East and also return the land occupied by the military to their rightful owners without further delay.
4. Relations with USA: We should have the best of relations with the USA but not at the cost of Russia. The only Country which stood by us through thick and thin during the past 72 years since our independence is Russia. To do anything against such a time- tested friend is morally reprehensible.
To sum up, the best anti-dote to poverty is enabling the citizens to earn their living by providing them jobs. For those who are willing to work schemes like MGNREGA should be strengthened. Bettering our relations with the rest of the world, especially with our neighbours, encouraging foreign investments in large scale, joining the Chinese OBOR and CPEC schemes will generate millions of jobs for our youth and propel India to the developed country status in no time. If the Congress party can achieve all these it can be sure to rule not for the next 5 years but for the next 50 years.