Congress asks Election Commission to return to ballot papers, wants media freedom ensured

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The Congress on Saturday demanded the Election Commission of India to returning to ballot papers in view of complaints of EVM tampering.

ballot papers
Photo: @ashokgehlot51

The party, in its political resolution presented at the 84th plenary session, said that ‘there are apprehensions among the Political Parties and the people over the
misuse of EVMs to manipulate the outcome.’

It said, “The Election Commission has the constitutional mandate to ensure free and fair
elections. Both the voting and counting process must remain transparent to retain people’s faith in the integrity of the electoral system.

“There are apprehensions among the Political Parties and the people over the misuse of EVMs to manipulate the outcome contrary to the popular verdict. To ensure the credibility of the electoral process, the Election Commission should revert to the old practice of paper ballot, as most major democracies have done.”

This is the first time the Congress has officially taken a stand against the EVM. Janta Ka Reporter’s editor-in-chief, Rifat Jawaid was the first journalist to demand the introduction of ballot papers in the elections. In his Facebook live post Uttar Pradesh elections, Rifat had said that India desperately needed the re-introduction of ballot papers’ in the light of the complaints of EVM fraud.

Rifat had also suggested the same day counting as is the norm in several established democracies such as UK and USA.

The Congress on Saturday also said that the BJP’s move for simultaneous elections was ‘misplaced.’ It said, “It is incompatible with the Constitution and is also impractical. It will have serious implications, which must be thoroughly enquired into, and a national consensus built.”

You can read the full resolution below:

 

Political Resolution

The Indian National Congress has been the platform of India’s freedom struggle inclusive, liberal and representing the rich diversity of ‘Bharat’ which is multi ethnic, multilingual and multi-religious. The Congress courageously led the struggle of the Indian people for freedom from the ‘British Raj’ after centuries of suppression and exploitation.

Congress has throughout represented the spirit of India and its unique and rich heritage, that has provided sustenance to our people and also courage and strength in times of adversity.

It is important to recall, that Mahatma Gandhi in his speech to a meeting of the All India Congress Committee in November 1947 described the INC saying :

“Congress is of Indians, of all those who inhabit this land, whether they are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or Parsis”.

70 years later, his words still ring true at the 84th Plenary Session of the Congress, which has a proud history of 133 years. This plenary Session is a landmark in our journey as the oldest democratic movement of the world. It is also an inspirational occasion for millions of our country men and women and also for all those, who believe in freedom, human dignity and democracy across the world.

This Plenary of the Congress recalls that the arrival of Gandhi ji from South Africa and his courageous struggle, galvanized the people of India. His philosophy of Satyagraha became the mantra of India’s freedom struggle. Mahatma Gandhi, swayed millions with the simplicity of his message, his courage, compassion and humanism. Inspired by his values and philosophy, Congress spread to distant corners of the country, embracing all people, cutting across the divide of caste, class, creed or language, by converting it into the biggest mass movement in the history of the democratic world.

The guiding principles and ideology of the Congress, are founded on the values espoused by him which have an enduring relevance for India and the world. Mahatma Gandhi ably supported by Pt. Nehru, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Azad and other stalwarts of the national movement galvanised the people to challenge and defeat the British empire.

The dawn of Independence brought several painful challenges in its wake. The unity of our nation, torn by partition, conflagrated by strife and violence, was severely tested. The historic embrace of democracy at a time when a vast majority of our people were steeped in ignorance, hunger and poverty, personified the conviction of our leaders. It is our shared legacy and an enduring strength. This Plenary Session reaffirms our commitment to nurture and strengthen the traditions of India’s democracy – inclusive, liberal and secular.

This Plenary Session feels, it is important to recall that in India’s early days of freedom, Bapu was snatched away by forces of violence and communalism – ironically the very forces which he stood up against. India was fortunate to have stalwarts of national movement in Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Rajgopalachari, Govind Ballabh Pant, Babu Jagjiwan Ram, who gave us strength in moments of shock and grief.

We recall with gratitude the remarkable contribution of Pandit Nehru. He laid the strong foundations of parliamentary democracy. He is remembered as a visionary builder of institutions. Architect of our planned economy, he laid the foundations of India’s industrialization, led by the public sector and the commanding heights of our economy. He engendered in us a scientific temper and built institutions of excellence which have stood us in good stead. He was a global statesman, and a principal architect of the Non-Aligned Movement which played a significant role in shaping the global political and economic discourse.

Independent India adopted a Constitution which honours the commitment made by the leaders of the national movement to the people of India. This Plenary Session of the Congress, places on record its deep appreciation of the  seminal contribution of Dr. Ambedkar for giving us a constitution, that guarantees fundamental rights to the citizens of India and a Parliamentary democracy.

After Pt. Nehru’s demise, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri as Prime Minister, provided leadership in a difficult period. His stirring call “Jai Jawan-Jai Kisan” inspired India during the 1965 war.

Smt. Indira Gandhi was entrusted with the leadership after the untimely demise of Shastri ji. She remained, committed to the vision of a strong and self-reliant India. She led the nation with firm pragmatism which enabled her to take tough decisions in the interest of the nation. A socialist at heart, she had the courage to take bold decisions in abolition of privy purses and bank nationalization. She stood for the cause of the weak, down-trodden, dalits, tribals and women. Her concern for the poor was manifested in her call for – Garibi Hatao’. She ensured India’s self-reliance by ushering in the Green Revolution and gave a strong thrust to the development of Nuclear and Space technology.

This Congress Plenary, while placing on record the historic contribution of Pt. Nehru as a front ranking leader of the freedom struggle, and the leadership and martyrdom of Smt. Indira Gandhi, condemns the BJP Government for belittling their achievements and not honouring their memory.

It needs mention, that Rajiv Gandhi assumed office as Prime Minister in the tragic backdrop of Indira Gandhi’s martyrdom for India’s unity and integrity. He gave a vision in preparing for the 21st century. At the same time, he was a firm believer in devolution of power and strengthening village institutions and introduced historic legislation for local self-governance and empowerment of women. His vision was reflected in his legislative agenda which saw the reservation of one-third seats for women in Panchayats and Nagar Palikas. He was a firm believer in the power of youth to act as an agent of change and gave them the right to vote at the age of 18.

The tragic assassination of Sh. Rajiv Gandhi was a big blow to the Congress, and Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao was entrusted with the responsibility. As Prime Minister, he steered the country out of engulfing crisis. The economic reforms of 1991, was truly historic and transformed Indian economy.

Congress recalls that, in the mid 1990’s, India saw a period where peripheral forces and political parties, with a divisive agenda, combined to influence the national political discourse. Congress lost substantial support base in its traditional bastions and workers were demoralized, looking for direction. Our detractors predicted the demise of Congress when India needed it the most.

It needs mention, that it was during this difficult period that Smt. Sonia Gandhi was elected President of the Party. She accepted the challenge of rebuilding and reinvigorating the Congress, preparing it to counter the rise of communal forces. Her leadership enthused the rank and file of the Party and re-energised it to regain the confidence of the people.

The people of India, sagaciously reposed their faith in the ideology of Congress and mandate was given in two successive elections in 2004 & 2009 to a Congress led coalition of progressive secular parties, to keep communal forces in check. An inclusive social agenda has been at the core of our own growth paradigm, which has ensured a silent transformation in the rural hinterland.

This Congress Plenary places on record, that the UPA Government from 2004-2014 led by Dr. Manmohan Singh, gave India inclusive growth and development. India became the first country in history to quadruple its GDP within a decade, crossing 2 trillion US Dollars. It pursued policies of inclusion and social justice bringing 140 million Indians out of poverty, empowered the people.

Women’s Empowerment

Women in India are facing multiple challenges. There is an alarming rise in incidents of violence and sexual assaults on women across the country. The BJP Government has singularly failed in safeguarding the rights and dignity of women.  Gender justice and empowerment of women are enshrined in the ethos and history of the Indian National Congress. It gave India the first woman Prime Minister, first woman President and first woman Speaker of Lok Sabha. Rajiv Gandhi was instrumental in bringing about 33% reservation for women in the Panchayat Raj system with the hope, that it would radically transform the socio-economic landscape of our villages and the political fabric of India. Today the effects of this path-breaking decision are clear for all to see – women across the country participate in shaping the progress of their communities and are at the very foundation of our democracy. There are more elected women representatives in India alone, than in the rest of the world put together. We laud our Government under UPA II which has prepared legislation to enhance reservation for women in the institutions of local self-government to 50%.

The Congress, while reaffirming its support for women’s reservation in Parliament and legislatures, demands that the Government bring the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament for passage and implementation before the 2019 General Elections.

 

Youth

India today is the youngest nation in the world with more than half of its population below the age of 35. It is vital, that our political system is representative of the demographic profile of our nation and of the dreams and hopes of millions of young Indians. The Indian National Congress believes, that it is only by including the youth in our electoral politics, that we can provide India with the necessary leadership in the future. Congress President Rahul Gandhi has given a clarion call to the youth to step forward and actively participate in nation building. As we become a global power, our party will ensure that the youth, including those from the poorest and weaker segments of society, will be able to fully participate in shaping their collective future. To this end, innovative measures are required to create world class infrastructure and skilled manpower to enable the youth to derive the full benefits of the opportunity for the economic growth and other opportunities.

This Plenary Session, indicts the BJP Government of betraying the youth of India by not fulfilling the promised two crore jobs every year. The Government not only failed to create jobs but through its decisions, India lost millions of jobs in MSME and informal sector.

Social Justice

The UPA Government under the leadership of Prime Minister                   Dr. Manmohan Singh ushered in the rights revolution in the country. It gave the country and its poor: the Constitutional right to local self-government across the range of subjects listed in the Eleventh and Twelfth Schedules; the right to information; the right to work; the forest dwellers’ rights; the right to education; and the right to food security. The Indian National Congress applauds the farsighted approach of successive UPA Governments to translate principles of social justice into justiciable rights. This Plenary of the Congress also places on record the notable contribution of Smt. Sonia Gandhi in support of that endeavour.

The empowerment of disadvantaged groups, particularly scheduled casts, scheduled tribes, minorities, OBCs and economically weaker sections of the society, is a responsibility that needs to be shared by both Government as well as the private sector. The Congress Party, had implemented the policy of 27% reservation in employment and gave 27% reservation to OBCs in education vide the 93rd amendment to the Constitution. We must realize that social equity and equality of opportunity cannot be achieved only compulsory reservation or a quota but rather by a radical shift in the mindset of our institutions.

The UPA Government enacted the Forest Rights Act, 2006 which has not been effectively implemented in the last four years denying tribals the right to land and other resources. The Congress stands for immediate and effective implementation of this Act.

 

 

Atrocities on Dalits, Adivasis and Minorities

The Congress Party condemns the escalation of atrocities on Dalits, Adivasis and Minorties and the violent attacks on the poor who have raised their voice of protest in many parts of the country. These have created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity among the people. Shocking brutalities have gone unpunished. Mob lynchings have shamed India.

It is deplorable that the Government remains insensitive and refuses to act when persons occupying positions of responsibility in the Government and the ruling party have endorsed the actions of organizations responsible for atrocities and acts of violence.

 

Minorities in the BJP rule have a general fear of insecurity. In a country where the Constitution guarantees freedom, it is unacceptable for the people to be told what to eat and what to wear.

Congress remains committed to ensure the safety of all minorities as equal citizens and to protect their fundamental rights.

 

RSS-BJP

India is confronted today by a systematic assault on the foundational principles of our Constitution and the values of Indian republic, by the outfits and organisations affiliated to the ruling RSS-BJP combine. The lifeline of Indian democracy is inclusion and secularism. The very basis of our polity is threatened by the ideology of the BJP, RSS and their affiliates.  In pursuit of its insidious and divisive agenda, they have inflamed communal passions and hyper nationalism. The RSS-BJP affiliates, have created an environment of distrust, fear and intimidation. Their actions threaten to tear apart the fabric of social unity and harmony. The Prime Minister and the BJP Government are intolerant of any criticism and remain in arrogant denial.

The RSS-BJP is misrepresenting, distorting and misusing religion to exploit the sentiments of the people and capture political power. The toxic mix of religion and politics, poses a challenge to our pluralistic society and inclusive democracy. RSS, which claims to be a social and cultural organisation, masquerades as sole representative of the Hindus.

The Indian tradition and the essence of Hinduism has been all encompassing, upholder of humane values and our composite culture. It is distinct and must not be confused with Hindutva, which is essentially a political ideology.

The RSS and BJP, claim to be custodians of nationalism and patriotism. It is ironical since they are ideological descendants of the non participants of the freedom struggle.

 

Congress – a Party, which led the freedom struggle with its leaders and workers making great sacrifices, therefore, needs no lessons from the RSS-BJP on nationalism and patriotism.

 

Congress exhorts the people of India to defend and uphold the spirit of ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav’ and India’s ancient wisdom as encapsulated in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam’.

Forces of communalism and violence have no place in a civilized society. No cause can justify terror and violence against innocent civilians and no religion gives that sanction. Congress condemns communalism and terrorism in all its manifestations and reaffirms its resolve to fight such forces.

The Congress Plenary, unequivocally commits to defend the fabric of social unity, secularism and constitutional democracy.

Congress deplores the Government for undermining the established norms of governance and subversion of educational, cultural and historical institutions, facilitating their capture by BJP’s ideological affiliates. RSS infiltration of every Institution, Administration and the Universities, poses a threat to pluralism and Indian Democracy. The centralisation of authority, arbitrary and partisan decision making, has cast a dark shadow on Parliamentary democracy.

The BJP Government, has brazenly misused the constitutional office of Governors and resorted to unethical means to destabilise elected Governments, hijack popular mandates and foisting Governments by manufacturing majority. The BJP Government is insensitive and disrespectful of the above. This calls for strong condemnation.

Congress condemns the BJP Government, for brazen abuse of power and misuse of Central Government agencies for targeted political vendetta to harass, humiliate and persecute its political opponents.

The BJP Governments in the States have unleashed persecution and atrocities against the Congress workers.

 

The Congress Party warns the BJP and its Government, that its undemocratic methods and acts to curtail liberty, freedom of expression and violation of fundamental rights of the citizens as enshrined in the Constitution will be strongly resisted.

Corruption

The country has seen scams, scandals and questionable transactions under the watch of Prime Minister in Centre and BJP ruled States. The Defence acquisition process has been manipulated and country’s defence preparedness compromised.

The Rafale jet deal to purchase 36 fighter jets at hugely inflated prices has raised serious questions. The decision was arbitrary and announced by the Prime Minister, without the prior approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Surprisingly the decision was taken when the process to acquire 126 fighter jets through a global tender at 1/3rd the price was near conclusion.

There is adequate evidence now in public domain, justifying the demand of an impartial and independent probe.

 

BJP has a history of double standards and double speak on corruption. The Government has refused to take action on serious allegations of corruption against BJP Chief Ministers and Ministers. It has shielded the corrupt and prevented the investigating and enforcement agencies, from acting as is professionally required even when there is prima-facie evidence. On the contrary, clean chits are sought to be manipulated. The BJP Govt. lacks sincerity in fighting corruption, to ensure transparency and accountability. This is underscored by its non appointment of Lokpal.

There is a nexus between the BJP and those, who have amassed wealth through corruption and generation of Black Money. This is evident from the BJP’s access to unprecedented resources and money, which is brazenly on display in every election and rallies of the Party.

The country has recently seen the biggest bank scam in its history during this Government’s tenure. Public Banks have been defrauded of thousands of crores and the accused persons allowed to flee the country. The Government agencies, failed to act in time despite alerts against the well connected and high profile perpetrators of fraud. There is an apprehension in people’s minds over the safety of their money in Bank deposits. Congress demands swift extradition of the absconders to India. It is important that accountability is fixed at all levels.

Deteriorating Internal and External Security Environment

The nation today faces serious challenges to its security both internal and external. Terrorism, insurgency and Left-Wing extremism are grave threats to internal security. Indian National Congress is of the considered view that safety and security of all our citizens is a national priority. Sadly, the BJP Government has failed in its duty to ensure safety and security of its citizens.

Terrorism, violence and attacks along the LOC and International border are grave threats. The alarming increase in incidents of terror attacks are a painful reminder that the infrastructure of the terror syndicates operating from across the border remains largely intact despite claims to the contrary and poses a serious threat to the peace and security in the region.

 

The Congress Party deplores the attempt of the Government and the BJP to whip up hysteria and create a division in the polity on the issue of counter terrorism on which the whole nation stood united. This is most unfortunate and counterproductive.

The daily ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and international border and the consequent loss of lives of soldiers and civilians besides displacement of thousands of people, is a matter of grave concern. The Congress Party places on record its appreciation for the sacrifices of our brave soldiers in securing our frontiers and safeguarding India’s territorial integrity. We call upon the Government to take the initiative to find a credible and pragmatic solution for restoration of normalcy.

On the internal front, the growing unrest, violence in and loss of lives in Jammu and Kashmir is a matter of grave national concern. The state had benefitted for years from relative peace and normalcy resulting from focussed attention from the then UPA Government that had ensured development of infrastructure, promotion of tourism and generation of employment. The BJP, in its pursuit of power and political opportunism, has disrupted the ongoing constructive engagement with the people of the state in India’s endeavour to find a lasting and acceptable solution. Congress cautions the Government to correct the flawed approach and work for rebuilding the trust and restoration of normalcy.

It is important, that the threat of Left Wing Extremism is firmly contained. The Government must combine the operations of para-military forces and Special Task Forces in the affected States with restoration of civilian administration. Effective coordination is essential between the Centre and concerned State Governments. Congress strongly feels, that building of social infrastructure in tribal areas and environment friendly developmental projects must be given priority attention. Every effort should be made to bring youth and tribal people in the mainstream of the society.

 

The Congress led UPA government implemented a series of developmental initiatives which had begun to have an impact on the lives of people in naxal affected areas. This focus has been missing in the last four years.

 

During successive Congress Governments, the thrust of the Congress Party was the stability, growth, development, safety and security of the North-Eastern States, and most importantly, to preserve the culture and tradition of the people there. The BJP is driven by political opportunism in complete disregard to the above.

 

The BJP, in its greed for power, has shown insensitivity towards the culture of the region and through it actions, created disruption and instability. Indian National Congress cautions the Government of India that its action will hurt India’s national interest.

 

Andhra Pradesh

 

The creation of Telangana and the successor state of Andhra Pradesh was enacted through the AP Reorganisation Act by the UPA Government in 2014, only after consensus by all the major political parties present in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.

 

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh announced the award in Special Category Status of Andhra Pradesh among other things in Parliament on February 20th, 2014.

 

The Congress Party is dismayed that till date, the implementation of the Special category Status has not been given effect to and that even the benefits to the State announced in the AP Reorganisation Act have been diluted or not implemented.

 

The Congress Party strongly condemns the above neglect and injustice to Andhra Pradesh by the current BJP led Government and reiterates its commitment to the complete implementation of the PM’s assurances and the provisions of the AP Reorganisation Act, and Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh.

 

Judiciary

 

There is disquiet in the functioning of the Judicial System. Recent revelations of its manipulation, has been a matter of public debate. This issue, must be urgently addressed to ensure the independence of the Judiciary and to protect it from the onslaught of the vested interests.

 

The judicial system needs urgent reforms for effective and timely dispensation  of justice. The huge pendency of cases in the courts and a large number of people not having access to affordable justice remains a challenge which must be addressed.

 

Tenth Schedule

 

Congress notes with concern, that the provisions of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution have not achieved the objectives of discouraging defections. Speakers of Legislatures often misuse their authority as Tribunals by selectively proceeding against legislators in the Opposition and protecting those belonging to their own Party. This, has impacted the credibility of the Office of the Speaker. This issue must be addressed. Congress will consider introducing legislative disincentives to put an end to this practice and to debar the defectors from contesting any elections for six years to check brazen misuse of money power to create political instability.

 

Conduct of Elections

 

The Election Commission has the constitutional mandate to ensure free and fair elections. Both the voting and counting process must remain transparent to retain people’s faith in the integrity of the electoral system.

There are apprehensions among the Political Parties and the people over the misuse of EVMs to manipulate the outcome contrary to the popular verdict.

 

To ensure the credibility of the electoral process, the Election Commission should revert to the old practice of paper ballot, as most major democracies have done.

 

Simultaneous Polls

The BJP’s move for simultaneous elections is misplaced. It is incompatible with the Constitution and is also impractical. It will have serious implications, which must be thoroughly enquired into, and a national consensus built.

Media

Media plays an important role in a democracy to inform and sensitize public opinion. To inform credibly, to disseminate freely and report independently, is the foundation of trustworthiness of media.  An authoritarian regime seeks to shackle the voice of media and muzzle the truth. This is under serious cloud today. Subjugation of the free press through misuse of power and resources of the Government, intimidation, economic discrimination and cooption of some is the new order.

Essence of democracy lies in the capacity to criticize and disagree fearlessly. Challenging times call for courage to uphold, defend and preserve the independence of Media.

Congress urges the media to restore the balance in our national narrative to safeguard democracy.

Conclusion

Congress will adopt a pragmatic approach for co-operation with all like-minded Parties and evolve a common workable program to defeat the BJP-RSS in the 2019 elections.

The Indian National Congress is proud of its illustrious history, legacy and remains the Party that truly represents India – multi-cultural, multilingual and multi-religious. Congress Party is committed to serve people of India at a time when the country stands at a crossroad as it faces the threat posed by authoritarian, divisive and disruptive forces.

Under the BJP regime, the people of India – Farmers, Khet Mazdoors, Workers in the unorganised sector, Self-employed, Manual labourers, Dalits, Minorities, Traders, Unemployed Youth and the Poor have been betrayed.

Today, our core constitutional values are under attack. Our freedoms are in jeopardy. Our Institutions are under stress and their independence compromised. Our Republic must be protected at all costs.

The Congress Party is prepared to make whatever sacrifices required to defend the ethos of our Constitution. We will purge the polity of the aberrations witnessed during the BJP regime, which has failed to honour its commitments to the people of India.

The 84th Plenary of the Congress, gives a clarion call to its rank and file to rise to the occasion to defend the foundational values of our republic and constitutional democracy.  A resurgent Congress alone shall win back the idea of India as envisioned by the founding fathers of our nation.

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