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It is time to repair the economy once again

The Congress Themes


The Congress is the only party with a clear agenda for development. It has shown this by experience, innovation and example.

That agenda is the elimination of poverty as we have known it for centuries in our generation. That agenda is to make use of education as a tool for social empowerment. That agenda is to improve the quality of life of every Indian.

The first non-Congress government at the Centre had destroyed the economy between 1977 and 1979.

The Congress restored it to health between 1980 and 1984. Between 1984 and 1989, the economy moved further ahead.

The second non-Congress government at the Centre undid all this in a matter of a few months in 1990.

When the Congress government came to power in June 1991, the economy had hit rock-bottom.

The nation's gold had been pledged to foreign banks to borrow money.

The country had foreign exchange reserves just for about ten days of imports of kerosene, fertilisers, edible oil, steel, machinery and other essential items of consumption and investment.

Inflation was raging at 17 pc.

The Eighth Five-Year Plan had been abandoned. There was undeclared Plan holiday.

Poverty alleviation, employment generation and social development programmes had come to a grinding halt.

It was an hour of shame. It could well have turned into an hour of grief.

But the Congress saved us from disaster.

It converted the crisis into an opportunity.

It converted a short-term challenge into a long-term agenda for reconstructing the Indian economy.

Agricultural growth between 1991 and 1996 was the highest in any five-year period.

Incomes of farmers increased. The terms of trade moved in favour of agriculture. Agricultural wages increased.

Industry boomed. This resulted in the elimination of shortages and black-markets in most consumer goods and items of mass consumption.

Exports increased at a record rate. This enabled the further growth of labour-intensive industries like textiles, gems and jewellery, leather and growth in agriculture and agro-processing.

Investment confidence in India was at an all-time high. Businessmen, both Indian and foreign, planned and executed new projects in large numbers.

Industrialists, businessmen, exporters, importers and traders were liberated from outdated controls and regulations.

The Eighth Five-Year Plan was launched with special emphasis on building physical and social infrastructure.

To the Congress, development is ultimately for the people. Development must have a strong social component.

That is why the Congress Government introduced a number of innovation in the social sectors. It

  • introduced a scheme to expand and strengthen ration shops in drought-prone areas, desert areas and hill and tribal areas.
  • launched a national old age pension scheme to provide a pension of Rs 75 per month to destitute persons of 65 years and above.
  • started a national family benefit scheme to provide lumpsum benefits in case of deaths of bread-earners of families below the poverty line.
  • implemented a national maternity benefit scheme to provide assistance to pregnant women below the poverty line.
  • began a new mid-day meal programme to improve nutrition and increase school attendance of 11 crore children in classes I to IV.
  • established a new Employment Assurance Scheme to provide guaranteed employment in 120 of the poorest districts of the country.
  • set up Rashtriya Mahila Kosh to provide financial support to working women and women entrepreneurs and launched a Mahila Samriddhi Yojana to make our women -- the backbone of Indian society -- self-confident and economically independent.

The investment in rural development and poverty alleviation during the period 1991-96 was Rs 34,000 crore, thrice the amount spent in the previous five years.

This was made possible because the Congress has a vision. The poor and the disadvantaged are at the centrestage of this vision.

The Congress bequeathed a strong and growing economy to the United Front government in 1996.

The United Front could not consolidate on what had been given to it by the Congress.

The GDP growth in 1997-98 is not expected to be more than 6 pc, compared to 7 pc in 1994-95 and 1995-96.

The growth in exports that averaged over 20 pc between 1993 and 1996 has dropped sharply to 4 pc.

Industrial growth has decelerated from 12% to 6 pc.

Banks' lending to industry and trade has greatly slowed down. Worse, bankers are afraid and reluctant to lend.

Tax revenues are not buoyant which means a setback to development expenditure. Growth in Central Plan expenditure in key infrastructure and social sectors had been reduced drastically.

It is time to repair the economy once again.

It is time to revive confidence in businessmen, traders, exporters, investors and stockmarkets.

It is time to relaunch traditional Congress programmes and schemes for social development through increased emphasis on primary education, health, nutrition and employment generation.

It is time to restore the prestige of India in the world.

In sort, it is that moment of history once again.

It is time for the Congress.


The Congress believes in a strong Centre, in strong states and in strong panchayats and nagarpalikas.

Each of these three builds on and draws sustenance from each other.

There is a delicate balance among the three.

How to maintain that balance comes from years of administrative experience and an overall perspective, something only the Congress can offer.

Panchayats and nagarpalikas are not the third tiers of development. They are, instead, the first tier of democracy.

Rajiv Gandhi alone understood the need to give constitutional strength to panchayats and nagarpalikas. He launched his battle in 1987. His dream was fulfilled in 1993 when the Constitution was amended.

Congress governments in the states have taken the local administration seriously and devolved administrative and financial powers as provided for in the Constitution.

A silent revolution is taking place in the villages and towns of India.

Its full impact will be felt in the next few years.

There are about 4500 MPs and MLAs representing a population of 95 crore.

With panchayats and nagarpalikas in place, 30 lakh representatives at the grassroots -- 10 lakh of whom are women -- will now emerge as leaders of the people. This is empowerment that the Congress has made possible.

Vibhinnta Se Ekta

Indian civilisation is at least 5000 years old.

The Indian nation-state is just 50 years old.

The India that was created on August 15, 1947 is a noble experiment, an experiment at creating and sustaining political unity among people who have always been united culturally and spiritually.

Multi-ethnic societies all over the world are under stress and strain.

Some have withered away even though they had military might.

India too faces many challenges to her unity.

But it is the Congress's commitment to parliamentary democracy and sensitive federalism that has kept the nation together.

Armed insurrection in many parts of India has given way to peace and democracy.

The agitators of yesterday in places like Assam, Mizoram, Tripura and Nagaland are now part of the national mainstream.

The threat of secession in Punjab has been pushed back. Punjab is back to normal.

Peace is slowly, steadily but surely returning to Jammu and Kashmir.

The National Front government, of which the BJP was an integral part, created the crisis in J and K in 1990 by its totally inept and insensitive handling of people and events.

Since then, the Congress government fought militancy with a firm hand while at the same time it reached out to the people. The people of J and K have responded magnificently.

India is one and many at the same time.

That oneness has to be preserved and strengthened.

At the same time, that variety has to be recognised, nurtured and given opportunity for full expression.

We have survived because diversity of all kinds has been allowed to flourish.

Diversity defines us.

But why should it divide us?

That is what precisely the BJP and constituents of the United Front want to do.

Only the Congress, because of its history, its basic character and its years of experience can understand and manage these nuances.

Garib Ka Raj

Today, the desire among large sections of our society is not just for a Swar on earth but also for Swar-for voice, for full representation in the institutions of governance, for social acceptance and for political power.

The desire is not for benevolence but for participation, for social justice.

The Congress has always been sensitive to these concerns. It has championed equal opportunity. It has consistently believed that equal access to the best education and health is the foundation of a truly egalitarian society.

But education and health alone cannot compensate for centuries of discrimination. There is need for reservations also. The Congress enshrined reservations for scheduled castes and tribes in the Constitution.

Reservations for the Backward Classes too was an idea of the Congress. Pandit Nehru made this into a constitutional principle way back in 1952.

Since then, Congress governments have successfully implemented reservations for backward classes in several Congress-ruled states.

In 1990, due to its hamhanded and opportunistic approach, the National Front government triggered a caste war in several parts of India over the implementation of the recommendations of the Mandal Commission.

Between 1991 and 1993, the Congress moved to end the caste strife and build a consensus over the Mandal Commission's report.

Twentyseven pc of the jobs were reserved for OBCs in the central government and in public sector enterprises.

A National Commission for Backward Classes was also set up and a National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation established.

Today, OBCs have been appointed in the IAS and the IPS, thanks to the wise approach of the Congress. There has been no violence, no backlash. That shows the Congress touch.

It was the Congress that conferred constitutional status on the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in 1994.

Successive Congress governments amended the Constitution on several occasions to continue reservations for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

It was the Congress that established the Dr Ambedkar Foundation and converted the Dr Ambedkar University in Lucknow into a Central University.

It was the Congress that launched the Indira Awas Yojana to provide houses free of cost to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes below the poverty line.

It was the Congress that launched the million wells scheme to provide irrigation to farmers belonging to scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities.

There is a whole new generation of Dalits, backwards and other disadvantaged groups -- a generation that is conscious of its rights.

This generation is rejecting the politics of charity.

It is embracing the politics of parity. This is the Garib Ka Raj that the Congress espouses.

Arthik Swaraj

During the freedom movement, the Congress adopted Swadeshi when the enemy was the foreigner.

It adopted Swadeshi when it was necessary to instill pride in India and build up our self-confidence and morale.

In the early years following Independence, Panditji gave us the goal of self-reliance.

It was needed to create our own industrial base, encourage our own scientists and technologists and mobilise our own resources for development projects.

Swadesh and self-reliance have served us well. They have made India the fifth largest economic power in the world.

But it is time to reinterpret swadeshi and self-reliance, to redefine them and give them a contemporary meaning and relevance.

Today, the enemy is poverty and unemployment.

Today, the enemy is low investment and poor infrastructure.

Today, the challenge is to accelerate employment-intensive growth in all states of India.

The only answer to our problems is growth and more growth, growth in agriculture, industry and services and growth with more social justice and concern for the environment.

Higher growth is possible only if we invest more in physical and social infrastructure and invest them in a productive manner.

Higher growth is possible only if our public sector becomes more efficient and profit-oriented.

Higher growth is possible only if we export more and import more and if our economy becomes internationally competitive.

Higher growth is possible only if we have a higher rate of savings, particularly public savings.

Higher growth is possible only if we are able to attract at least two to three times the present level of foreign investment.

Higher growth can be sustained only if government's expenditure matches its revenues.

We have nothing to fear from the world.

We can stand up confidently and take on the world. Our businessmen, engineers, scientists, managers and workers are second to none.

We must use and take full advantage of the opportunities offered by an increasingly interdependent world economy. Countries that have closed themselves to the world have stagnated.

The poor countries of the world are not self-reliant when we can pay for our imports through our exports.

We will be truly self-reliant when we at least double our share of world trade over the next five years.

We will be truly self-reliant when we open up further so that Indian businessmen and goods conquer the world and are able to face up to and withstand foreign competition in the home market.

We will be truly self-reliant when we are able to invest more in education, in health, in water supply and sanitation, in irrigation, in roads, in power and in other basic areas.

We will be truly self-reliant when we are able to eradicate poverty and provide full employment.

This is possible only if we reorient the role of government at all levels and restructure government's expenditure pattern.

We will be truly self-reliant only when we are able to keep our internal and external debt profile at manageable and sustainable levels.

We will be truly self-reliant only when we are able to maintain fiscal balance, particularly on the revenue account.

Our enemy is within.

Some self-styled protagonists of national interest have corrupted this simple fact.

But these protagonists cannot sustain their lies for long.

They have admitted in no uncertain terms that swadeshi is their electoral compulsion, while foreign investment and liberalisation is the national necessity.

This is the height of hypocrisy.

The BJP and its allies vowed to throw Enron into the Arabian Sea if they came to power in 1996. Yet, the only decision the 13-day BJP government took in May 1996 was to approve the Enron power project!

The Congress is clear. There is no double-speak in its approach to self-reliance, to Arthik Swaraj.

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We unreservedly apologise for not preventing the tragic events of December 6
The PM and CMs will come under the purview of the Lok Pal
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