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As the Congress Friday began the exercise of public consultations for preparation of its 2014 election manifesto,reservation to Scheduled Castes,Scheduled Tribes and OBCs in the private sector and providing statutory backing for SCs and tribal sub plans to prevent diversion of funds meant for them have come to occupy its mind space. Sources in the party admitted that the affirmative action model has not worked as desired.
These were among the key suggestions that the party received at a closed-door meeting Rahul Gandhi and its top leaders held with activists and representatives of the SC/ST and OBC communities. The suggestions revolved around themes like access of quality education,affordable health care and livelihood opportunities. Rahul spent around 75 minutes at the informal meet. Sources said he told the meeting that he would blow up processes which prevent people from participating in politics.
Days after the shock defeat in the Assembly elections,Rahul had spoken about transforming the organisation and learning lessons from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) model by involving people beyond everyones imagination. It is a narrow elite which constitutes the political establishment and within each party there is an even narrower group which controls political activities like the preparation of manifestoes, that was his message,Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said.
The Congress,however,denied it was following the AAP model of manifesto making. The AAP had taken inputs from people and prepared constituency-wise manifestos,which were compiled to form the general manifesto,much before the Congress announced its plan to begin public consultations.
The Congress manifesto of 2009 had talked about affirmative action for SC/STs in the private sector. Senior Congress leader Mukul Wasnik,who attended the session,said there was much more left to be done on this front. He said the private sector will have to pay attention to voluntary affirmative action effectively otherwise the demand for reservation will grow louder.
Rahul told the meeting that he will work towards opening up processes to develop policy and political representation through allocation of candidate tickets. Sources said many may dislike him for arguing in favour of opening up the processes,but said he would go ahead whether or not anybody liked it. The Congress cannot continue to function in this manner. It need to transform, he was quoted as saying by a Congress leader who was present.
Although the party labelled the exercise as public consultation,it was a closed-door meeting with entry by invitation. Sources said questions were asked about the governments unfulfilled commitment to bring the Homestead Bill and a national land reform policy.
Senior ministers including P Chidambaram,M Veerappa Moily,Kumari Selja,Jairam Ramesh and Kishore Chandra Deo besides top Congress leaders attended the session.