scorecardresearch
Follow Us:
Friday, December 03, 2021

Idea of Congress

Congress’s new manifesto does manage to do is still significant: It signals that the party is willing to stake out its own positions in ways that do not just counter its political opponent

By: Editorial |
Updated: April 5, 2019 10:48:02 am
samjhauta blast case, samjhauta blasts, NIA, NIA court on Samjhauta blast case, Samjhauta blast accused, BJP, Hindutva, narendra modi Congress’s Manifesto 2019 is welcome, therefore, for giving the sense of a party in motion.

Especially since the rise of the Narendra Modi led-BJP, the Congress has been criticised for fighting the BJP armed with nothing more than anti-BJPism. It has been legitimately accused of practising a negative politics, and on crucial issues, either being incoherent or spooked into a BJP-lite response. It has been charged with the failure to hold up the liberal, or simply the Opposition’s, end of the polity. It is not that the manifesto for the 2019 elections that Rahul Gandhi’s party unveiled on Tuesday changes all of the above. It won’t. Because that will take more than a compendium of intentions and talking points. But what the Congress’s new manifesto does manage to do is still significant: It signals that the party is willing to stake out its own positions in ways that do not just counter its political opponent, but also break from its own — on many of these issues, tainted — record. Rahul Gandhi’s party is sending a signal that it may be ready to begin shedding the silence, ambiguity and timidity accumulated over years and risk being held accountable for what it says. As it does so — if it does so — the wider democratic polity stands to gain from a genuine contest of ideas between its two main national parties, instead of the shadow-boxing so far.

Congress’s Manifesto 2019 is welcome, therefore, for giving the sense of a party in motion. There are questions, however, of direction and judgement, workability and credibility. And there are still crucial silences. The minimum guarantee scheme, Nyay, is ambitious, but its dependence on state governments filling lakhs of jobs in a year or having a ministry for employment points to an over-reliance on an unimaginative, sarkari response to a slowing economy. The promise to omit the IPC section that deals with sedition is well intended, but it comes shadowed by previous Congress governments’ appetite for using the law to curb freedoms of those like Aseem Trivedi, jailed in 2012 for a cartoon. The pledge to review the AFSPA, to rework the balance between requirements of security and protection of human rights, and the immunity provided to the armed forces, is again burdened with suspicions of bad faith on account of the conduct of Congress governments, and the visible irresolution within the party. While it may be necessary to enforce some accountability for national security, it may not be wise to do so by making the National Security Adviser report to Parliament. It is certainly an illiberal idea to enforce a code of conduct on reporting in situations of national disaster, communal conflict and terror attacks — tying the media’s hands could undermine the fundamental right to freedom of expression in critical times.

Overall, the Congress seeks to stake out softer, more liberal positions on issues of individual liberty and national security even as it still seems to lack a voice and conviction on economic issues. In comparison to its earlier manifestos in 2009 and 2014, the Congress is less forthcoming on minorities, which have felt besieged in the BJP-led regime. With all the health warnings, however, on Tuesday, the Congress has made an interesting new beginning. Where it goes from here will be watched.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App.

  • Newsguard
  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
  • Newsguard
0 Comment(s) *
* The moderation of comments is automated and not cleared manually by indianexpress.com.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement