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The Tharoor manifesto: Reimagining Congress high command’s role, real authority for PCC chiefs

Laying out his vision for the party, Congress leader says the key is “convincing young Indians that we understand their aspirations and can be trusted to promote them in government”.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor files his nomination papers for the post of party president, at AICC headquarters in New Delhi, September 30, 2022. (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

Shashi Tharoor’s chances of being the next Congress president may have taken a hit after Mallikarjun Kharge entered the fray as the Gandhis’ unofficial choice but the MP from Thiruvananthapuram is going all out to do his bit to ensure he stands a chance to cause an upset.

After filing his nomination papers on Friday, Tharoor released a manifesto positioning himself as the Congress’s future. Using the tagline “Think tomorrow, think Tharoor”, he detailed 10 tenets for revitalising the party, among them decentralising the organisation by “giving real authority to the PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) presidents” and reimagining the role of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters. Among the other internal changes that he has proposed are limiting party president and other office-bearer posts to two five-year terms and organising elections to 12 posts out of 23 in the Congress Working Committee (CWC).

Saying that “no other political party has a comparable process to determine its future leadership”, the manifesto in its introduction said, “The Congress can set a standard that will establish a compelling narrative that it is the best vehicle for an independent future of a democratic India.”

Talking about rejuvenating the organisation, Tharoor said the focus should be on “bringing fresh faces and young blood”, and added, “A revived Congress is the key to once again convincing young Indians that we (Congress) understand their aspirations and can be trusted to promote them in government.”

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The manifesto then goes on to talk about decentralised leadership “at all levels and not just at the top”. This was the section that landed the senior leader in trouble as it featured a distorted map of India. Tharoor later apologised on Twitter saying that “a small team of volunteers” had “made a mistake.” and that it had been rectified.

Tharoor seeks to “reimagine the role of the AICC headquarters” by “having a full-time President who is accessible to all and holds interaction for karyakartas”. The manifesto says that at the organisational level quarterly meetings need to be held with departments and frontal organisations and talks of the appointment of general secretaries with “thematic responsibilities” who “will curate and develop the policies for the major challenges facing India and the world”. It adds that the CWC should meet monthly, with plenary sessions conducted every five years.

The Tharoor document then goes on to talk about “reiterating the core convictions of the party” by saying that the “INC stands for an Inclusive India”. It adds that the party will “constantly affirm the principle of secularism and respect for India’s diversity and pluralism”. It also mentions that the Congress will “support civil liberties including freedom of expression and the press, and support for citizen’s right to privacy”.

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To “broaden participation in the party”, Tharoor says “consultative mechanisms” need to be strengthened through a “democratic and collective decision-making process” by “reviving the party’s parliamentary board as well as an election to 12 seats in a 23-member Congress working committee”.

The manifesto talks about ending the “perception that decision making has been concentrated in the hands of a select few” and advocates for a “shadow government to challenge the government daily”.

Tharoor also touches on the “one person, one post rule”, which played a role in the Rajasthan crisis. “Pledge to implement the Udaipur declaration of 2022, including the ‘one person one post rule’, term limits for party positions (normally two terms in any party post) to permit renewal of energies; 50% tickets for those under 50, and increased representation for women, youth, SCs, STs, OBCs, and minorities in party positions”, reads the manifesto.

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Talking about reinvigorating election management, the manifesto says “professional techniques” need to be introduced, including candidate selection meetings and nominating candidates at least three months before elections. Candidates who have lost two elections in a row “would not be repeated for the same seat”, it adds.

The document seeks to develop an “increased focus on youth” by appealing to the “untapped political potential of unemployed youth, youth heavy workplaces (notably the IT sector), and migrant hotspots” and carving out a bigger role for women by passing the Women’s Reservation Bill. Additionally, it seeks to reach out to Industry and professionals and “support business and industry by reviving the MSME sector.

The final point of the manifesto is to “return to the ethos of politics as social work”. “There is a great deal that it can and must do between elections” including “helping citizens in their interactions with the government,” it says.

First published on: 01-10-2022 at 08:41 IST
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