Protests mishandled, Cong to discuss women issues at chintan shivir

Besides special session on women’s empowerment, upcoming chintan shivir in Jaipur this week to host four separate sessions

bhavdeepkang

Bhavdeep Kang | January 15, 2013


Prince and his folks at forefront: Carrying the Rahul Gandhi stamp, 30% of chintan shivir’s 365 delegates are from Indian Youth Congress and NSUI.
Prince and his folks at forefront: Carrying the Rahul Gandhi stamp, 30% of chintan shivir’s 365 delegates are from Indian Youth Congress and NSUI.

Pehle hoga nari samman, phir hoga Bharat nirmaan. (Respect for women first, building the nation will come subsequently).

Thus goes one of the slogans thought up for the Congress “chintan shivir”, or brainstorming session, to be held in Jaipur later this week. A special session on women's empowerment was added last week in an effort to make up for the poor handling of the mass protests against the gangrape of a 23-year-old in Delhi on December 16 and her subsequent death in Singapore.

On the menu for discussion in this special session are amending the school curriculum to instil respect for women at an early age, the women's reservation bill, and amendments to the existing rape law to make it more effective. “There were 24,000 cases of rape across the country last year,” a senior Congress office-bearer said.

While the party is yet to recognise women as a separate constituency, it does feel the need for damage control.

Five separate sessions will be held at the chintan shivir. These are on international affairs, political issues, socio-economic subjects, organisational matters and women's empowerment. Judicial reforms, engaging with civil society, the Sachar committee report and Indo-Pakistan relations are also on the agenda.

The shivir already carries the stamp of Rahul Gandhi. Of 365 delegates who have been selected to attend, 118 (or 30 per cent) are from the Indian Youth Congress and the NSUI. All other frontal organisations of the party are represented by only four members.

The Amethi MP’s aide, Mandsaur MP Meenakshi Natrajan, who handles NSUI and IYC, has played a key role in selecting invitees from the “youth” brigade. The entire union cabinet, comprising 23 ministers (as well as 12 ministers of state with independent charge) and the 19-member Congress Working Committee, along with the 18 permanent and 11 special invitees, will attend the event.

The notable exception is SM Krishna, who has reportedly declined saying he is going abroad. Congress insiders said he is still miffed at having had to yield the external affairs ministry to Salman Khursheed.

The party’s four spokespersons, 34 pradesh Congress committee (PCC) presidents and 29 members of the Congress legislature party will also be present. Initially, the 25 ministers of state and 32 AICC secretaries had been left out but were included after they protested, it is learnt.

The session on socio-economic issues is likely to see fireworks as there are two distinct streams of thought in the Congress: the left of centre socialists who are cautious about opening up the economy wholesale, and those who subscribe to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's reformist zeal. The growing fiscal deficit and the National Food Security Bill are among the contentious issues which will be taken up.

 

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