The Conference of Madras Provincial Congress Committee was convened on 21st November 1925 in Kanchipuram. The Secretary of the Provincial Committee presents a resolution with the signatures of 50 delegates for its due consideration for discussion and passing. The President of the Conference was pressurized by the Brahminical hegemony of the party not to admit the proposed resolution. The resolution was significant very much, since it appealed for the proportional representation for the functionary posts in the Congress Party. It was stressed to provide 50 per cent of the posts to the non-Brahmin communities, since maximum posts and positions were held by Brahmins during that period. The resolution of that type was not presented for the first time at the Kanchipuram conference for consideration. The leader who proposed the resolution took much initiative for its intervention in the earlier conferences held in Tirunelveli (1921), Thanjavur (1922), Tiruppur (1923) and Tiruvannamalai (1924) but the resolution was not admitted for consideration at all. Having experienced, the hurdles put forth by the Brahminical hegemony for proportional representation, the leader realised that it would be futile to remain in the party. Along with the supporters of the resolution he quit the conference venue. The leader who moved out of the party later changed the entire socio-political scenario of the Madras Province, the present Tamil Nadu. The leader was none other than Thanthai Periyar E.V.Ramasamy, the great social revolutionary who founded the Self-Respect Movement after quitting the Congress Party for the cause of many who were denied representation and opportunities.
The progressive proposal that was denied at Kanchipuram conference 98 years ago has been accepted by the Congress Party recently at its apex level. Yes; the Congress had elected Mallikarjun Kharge who hails from a Scheduled Caste community as its National President. A major breakthrough happened in the 85th Plenary conference held at Raipur, Chhattisgarh, from 24 to 26 February 2023.
The numerical strength of the Congress Working Committee has been enhanced from 23 to 35, of which the number of elected members is enhanced from 12 to 18. Of the total members of the Working Committee, 50 per cent is allotted to the Scheduled Castes (SCs), the Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Minorities. The Constitution of the Congress Party was amended accordingly by the apex level body of the party.
The change in the Congress Constitution happened at present was the same that was proposed by Thanthai Periyar at Kanchipuram conference in 1925. That which did not happen in the Congress Party 98 years ago has happened now. A social transformation has taken place in the Congress Party in democratic spirit with due representation to the marginalised communities in its apex body. With this change, the Congress leadership would become a due political party in India, representing all the sections of the society.
Besides this change, the Congress Working Committee has taken certain historic decisions on the social justice front, which no other political party in the country has come forward with.
The following resolutions were passed in the plenary session:
The BJP has consistently refused to conduct the caste census which would be crucial to revising the benchmark for socio-economic and educational backwardness. The caste census shall also enumerate Denotified Tribes and Nomadic Tribes.
It has to be incidentally mentioned, though the UPA government (2004 – 2014) conducted a socio-economic caste census in 2011, the Report is yet to see the light of the day. Congress said that it is committed to hold a socio-economic caste census along with the decennial census.
Rohit Vemula Act
To redress the discrimination faced by the students from SC, ST, OBC and Minority communities in educational institutions, it will enact a special Act called Rohit Vemula Act to protect and safeguard their right to education and dignity.
Dedicated Ministry for OBCs
Among the marginalised sections, OBCs were not adequately provided with opportunities in education and employment. It is resolved that a dedicated ministry for the empowerment of the OBCs will be created. The ministry will focus on expanding educational and employment opportunities of OBCs and provision of civic amenities in their habitations.
Constitutional status for Commissions of Minorities and Women
It has promised Constitutional status to the National Commission for Minorities and National Commission for Women, which is a long standing demand of activists and civil society groups.
The Congress Party is committed to implementing a special welfare scheme for minority welfare, based on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee. The Multi-Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP) and the 15-point programme for universities shall be implemented in full.
National Law for financial allocations for SCs and STs
Congress has proposed a national law to ensure that a portion of the Union Budget is earmarked in proportion to the population of SCs and STs in the country.
Reservation in Higher Judiciary
The plenary session has affirmed for reservation in the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts. Though reservation is provided in states in the appointment of judges in lower courts and beyond district courts reservation policy is not in practice. Indian Constitution does not bar affirmative action in higher judiciary. If the promises made by the Congress Party is performed, it would be for the first time in the 75 years independence of the country. Such affirmative action will ensure participation of all communities more so of the marginalised in the dispensation of judicial responsibilities at the apex levels.
Reservation for Women in
Apart from reservation measures for the representation of women in services, the party promised to ensure the passage of the women’s reservation Bill in legislative bodies with appropriate provisions for the reserved categories (SCs, STs, OBCs and Minorities) within the 33 percent.
Reservation for all the poor under EWS
The resolution talks of reviving scholarships for SCs, STs and OBCs. Economic status is one aspect in pursuing higher education. So it has been promised to include all the poor including SCs, STs and OBCs under the Economically Weaker Section reservation.
Reservation in Private Sector
So far reservation policy is under implementation in educational institutions both government and private and employment only in government services. The Congress Party has promised to secure equal access to jobs in the private organized sector for SCs, STs, OBCs and Minorities. When privatisation is encouraged by government policies, the scope for affirmative action in public sector gets minimized. So in order to ensure social justice to the marginalised, reservation has to be ensured in private sector too.
Making Minimum Support
The gap between the input cost to the farm gate price in agriculture is narrow. The farmers have to be duly compensated with minimum support prices (MSP) for their produces. So far MSP has been announced for only a few crops and even such MSPs are not ensured in reality. Farmers cannot enforce MSPs as a right at present.
The Congress Party has resolved to make minimum support price for crops a legally enforceable rights of farmers. Any purchase of agricultural produce below it would be a punishable offence.
Legal Mechanism to Curb Atrocities Against the Marginalized
Mob lynching particularly against minorities, atrocities against SCs and STs and violence against women have risen highly for the last nine years. The sense of insecurity and agony among SCs / STs is extremely high because they are continuously targeted with hate and gruesome violence by the BJP- RSS and their affiliates. The party expressed its commitment to further strengthen the legal mechanism for ensuring protection of rights of these communities.
Rejection of National Educational Policy 2020
The Congress Party says it rejects National Educational Policy 2020, since it tries to delimit the entire education to literacy, numeracy and skills and aims to weaken the public education system.
Revolutionary Concept for the Congress Organizational Structure
The Congress also resolved to implement its Udaipur Declaration “in word and spirit. “we recognize that 50 under 50 was a revolutionary concept for the Congress organization that must be implemented across all party positions from the booth level to the Congress Working Committee level.”
Right to Basic Income
A “universal basket of entitlements’ has also been talked about for social justice. This makes a mention of Right to Basic Income through the ‘Nyuntam Aay Yojana’ that is implemented in Congress ruled States. It also mentions Right to Health, Pension for single women, elderly persons and persons with Disabilities.
Safeguarding the Constitution and Democracy
Congress leaders underlined the “pressing need” to safeguard the Constitution and democracy. After the culmination of the plenary session in Raipur, party chief Mallikarjun Kharge claimed the Modi government is undemocratic and indulging in dictatorship.
All the above resolutions passed at the plenary session must be incorporated in the election manifesto of the Congress Party for the Lok Sabha election to be held in 2024. The commitment expressed by the Congress Party must be reflected in the electoral alliance with other political parties and must be placed as ‘Common Minimum Programme’ for its implementation to secure the mandate of the people. If the above commitment gets implemented as manifestation of the resolutions, it would be a turning point in the post-independence period and become historic in the socio-political history of the country.
(Compiled from the press reports of the English dailies, The Hindu and The New Indian Express with due acknowledgement.)