New Delhi, Jan. 6: The Congress is busy preparing for its brainstorming session in Jaipur, but most of the lofty goals set at a similar conclave in Shimla in 2003 have either been forgotten or remain unaccomplished.
In Shimla, Sonia Gandhi had laid the strongest emphasis on the need to check “the dangerous rise of communal forces” and promised a Bapu Sadbhavna & Shiksha Trust to protect impressionable minds from being poisoned.
But the plan remains on paper although a Congress-led coalition came to power a year later in 2004. Another of Sonia’s dream projects, a national training institute for Congress workers, remains unfulfilled.
“The Congress rededicates itself to strengthening the forces of nationalism that celebrate India’s multiple diversities and nurture its many unities,” the Shimla Sankalp (resolution) had said.
“The Congress expresses its commitment to the people that the communalisation of education will not go unchallenged and that the values of our freedom movement, of our Constitution and culture, will resonate in schools and educational institutions through the Bapu Sadbhavna & Shiksha Trust. It calls upon all like-minded, progressive people to participate in this historic endeavour.”
In her inaugural speech at the Shimla conclave — called “Vichar Manthan Shivir” unlike the “Chintan Baithak” this time, which sounds like a BJP copycat — Sonia had said: “And where and how do we begin this political and ideological battle? It must begin in young and impressionable minds where our political opponents are planting the seeds of bigotry, intolerance and hate.”
She had added: “This battle against prejudice while instilling pride in our heritage must be launched in schools and educational institutions. For this purpose, I intend to set up this trust comprising eminent men and women committed to our vision of a modern, secular, progressive India.”
Sonia was equally concerned about the training of Congress workers, both because of an ideological decline and the crisis of ethics in politics.
It was decided that “every Congressman and woman will go through an annual orientation course on contemporary political, economic and social issues and constructive work at this training institute”.
But the party did not even make an attempt to turn this idea into reality.
Sonia thought such an organised training would help create the new political culture she so often talked about. At the Shimla conclave, she had said: “We have to admit that over time the standards of political discourse in the country have fallen. Cynicism on politics and on politicians is increasing in many sections of our society.”
She had added: “This is dangerous for the health of our democracy and of our civil society. I firmly believe that politics must once again become an ennobling instrument of social change and reform.”
In Jaipur now, she can repeat this paragraph. Cynicism about politicians has now turned into hatred, thanks to the glut of scandals, the endless zeroes added to the loot money and the reckless rhetoric used by activists such as Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Baba Ramdev.
What is worrisome is that the new-age protests, mobilised over social media, have a definite anti-Congress strand. This generation of voters is not willing to make any concessions for the Grand Old Party that claims to take pride in the moral content of its politics.