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Congress unveils draft election manifesto

Shahid K Abbas in Shimla | July 09, 2003 22:02 IST

The Congress on Wednesday unveiled its draft election manifesto for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections in the form of the 14-point Shimla Sankalp (pledge), which would form the guide for the party in the coming assembly polls and the 2004 general election.

The 14-point Sankalp (resolve), which institutionalized the party's shift in stance - from pro-reforms to pro-poor, was adopted at the conclusion of the three-day Vichar Manthan Shivir (brainstorming session) in Shimla.

A highlight of the Sankalp was a call inviting all progressive thinking men and women, institutions and political movements who share 'our understanding of India's past, our concerns with India's present and our vision of India's future to join us in this historic endeavour'.

This was seen as an appeal to former Congressmen to return to the party fold or help the party in unseating the Vajpayee government.

Also, acknowledging its inability to single-handedly take on the ruling National Democratic Alliance, party president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday expressed keenness to forge alliances with like-minded parties.

However, it is not clear if secular parties in the National Democratic Alliance could also avail of this offer.

The Sankalp touches upon a number of emotive issues like reservations, crops prices, privatisation and promises people-oriented governance, transformation of rural areas and social empowerment.

Touching upon the biggest problem of the day, it promises to make employment opportunities for educated youth the overriding objective of all economic policies.

It reiterate the party's 'unwavering' commitment to fight religious fundamentalism and its resolve to combat the 'evil attempts being made by the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal to distort and destroy the liberal and tolerant essence of Hinduism'.

The Sankalp makes it clear that the party would oppose efforts by the Sangh Parivar to raise the issue of the mosques in Kashi and Mathura.

Addressing the participants at the end of the three-day, Sonia Gandhi said, "The Sankalp is our political charter, yet another milestone in our continued struggle against forces of communalism and fundamentalism."

She said the party would launch a nationwide Jan Jagran Abhiyan (mass awakening programme) to highlight the NDA government's failures.

On Ayodhya, Gandhi said a court verdict was the best solution, but if both sides do manage to arrive at a negotiated settlement, it must have legal sanctity.

She appealed to opposition parties to intensify efforts to evolve a strategy to counter communalism and religious fundamentalism.

With inputs from PTI

More reports from Himachal Pradesh

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