Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Saturday said the Congress should be absolutely clear in its ideological stance in favour of an inclusive India and pointed out that party could have been more vocal on issues such as the Bilkis Bano outrage and murder in the name of cow vigilantism.
Addressing the 85th plenary session of the party here, the former Union minister said the Congress should stand up for its foundational principles.
"We should be absolutely clear in our ideological stance in favour of inclusive India. The tendency to downplay some positions or avoid taking a stand on some issues in order not to alienate what we assume to be the sentiments of the majority only plays into the BJP's hands," Tharoor said.
"We must have the courage of our convictions. We could have been more vocal on the Bilkis Bano outrage, attacks on Christian churches, murder in the name of cow vigilantism, bulldozer demolition of Muslim homes and similar issues," he said.
These are Indian citizens who look to the party for support, Tharoor added.
Last year in August, all 11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2002 post-Godhra Bilkis Bano gang rape case walked out of the Godhra sub-jail after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy, triggering outrage from various sections, including the Congress.
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He asserted that India belongs to all and if the party does not speak up in such cases, it is only surrendering its core responsibility of standing up for India's diversity and pluralism which should be central to the Congress core message.
He said every effort must be made to strengthen the secular foundations of the country.
"The fact is that India's future is bright as long as the Congress fights the good fight," Tharoor said.
He also hailed the Bharat Jodo Yatra, saying it has revived the confidence of the party cadre.
"From here let us send out a message of Congress jodo," Tharoor said.
Speaking on the economic resolution passed on the second day of the three-day plenary, Tharoor said it should outline the elements of a progressive economic agenda that addresses head-on the challenge of unacceptable economic inequality.
"We want economic growth but we must ensure that the fruits of that growth reach the poor and the marginalised. India will not shine until it shines for all," he stressed.
The former minister of state for external affairs and the convenor of the party's sub-group on foreign affairs for the plenary also said policy has long been seen as an are of national consensus.
"There was no Congress foreign policy or BJP foreign policy only Indian foreign policy and Indian national interest. This tradition has sadly been undermined by the (Narendra) Modi government," Tharoor said.
Tharoor also criticised the government, saying it refuses to take the nation into confidence on vital foreign policy issues, including what is happening on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
"It is shocking to hear our foreign minister imply that China is too rich to stand up to. We must demand that Parliament be taken into confidence, that the nation be told what is our thinking about our vital foreign policy interests," he said.
Foreign policy must again return to being a consensual national endeavour with bipartisan agreement and support, he asserted.
In its resolution on foreign affairs passed at the session, the Congress expressed its deep concern about the prevailing situation on the LAC between India and China.
"The prevailing situation is indicative of a substantial deterioration from the assiduously-repaired relations developed under prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh. We firmly believe that we have a duty to stand up for India's security and territorial sovereignty, which the BJP government has failed to do," the party said.
"When it comes to the safety of our brave jawans and the integrity of our territory, the INC (Indian National Congress) unreservedly supports the army and the government," it said.
The Congress alleged that the government has failed to take the people of India into confidence about the "repeated transgressions" by the Chinese military at various points across the LAC, while it continues to engage with China in an "unstructured manner".
"This has emboldened China to be even more aggressive. India needs to communicate this clearly without obfuscation, and urgently enhance capabilities to deter China from attempting any military coercion along the LAC," it said.
At the same time, the guiding principles enshrined in the 2005 India-China agreement on the boundary issue need to be strongly reaffirmed in any engagement with China, the resolution said.
Finally, any and all measures need to be undertaken to defend the territorial integrity of India, which the Congress firmly commits to, the party said.
In its political resolution, the Congress said it has always believed in peace through both strength and negotiation, while dealing with all acts of aggression firmly.
"The UPA era reflected this approach -- through both high-level engagements and strengthening military and strategic capabilities. Our thinking can also be seen in our approach to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, which plays a key role in building infrastructure and maintaining peace on the border," the resolution said.
The Congress established the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in 1962, gave it a statutory basis in 1992 and assigned the entire China border to it in 2004, it said.
"In contrast, the lethargy and neglect of the BJP government has increased India's vulnerability. The Line of Actual Control between India and China continues to remain tense, with China claiming Indian territory in eastern Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh," the political resolution said.
"Even as a lakh troops or more are stationed in eastern Ladakh, Beijing is accelerating its rail networks and heightening the threat to our borders," it said.
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