In an interview to Kavita Chowdhury, Youth Congress President Rajeev Satav talks about the Congress Chintan Shivir at Jaipur and the prominent role of the Youth Congress there
There has been much talk about the presence of the Youth Congress in this shivir. Everybody — from Congress President Sonia Gandhi to the convenor, Ambika Soni — has been highlighting it. Is this a cosmetic change or is there something more tangible to it?
In earlier shivirs, both in Pachmarhi in 1998 and Shimla in 2003, there were just one or two representatives of the Youth Congress. But now, for the first time, that number has gone up and increased from two to 130-plus. Therefore, it is a clear sign from the Congress that the party is now focusing on the youth. Even Congress President Sonia Gandhi, in her inaugural speech at the shivir, gave prominence to the youth.
In the discussions on the five topics — socio- economic challenges, political challenges, organisational matters, women empowerment etc — at the shivir, senior Congress leaders gave time and space to all the youth representatives. The way senior leaders involved us in the discussion was heartening and we are immensely grateful to them for it.
In the discussion on India and the World’, the prime minister patiently listened to the views put forward by an NSUI member — a member of the Congress party’s student wing. In the discussion on Emerging political challenges’, A K Anthony ji, started off the discussion urging that the youth should speak first. Same was the case at the discussion on organisational strength, which was headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad ji. In every group, senior party leaders gave the maximum time to voices of the youth.
While there is a view in the Congress that the youth segment must be given more importance, there is also a section which feels that the Youth Congress is being accorded so much importance only because Rahul Gandhi, the Congress scion, is the force behind it.
In the last four to five years, Rahul Gandhi has completely transformed the Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India. The organisation has changed itself, laying stress on transparency and democratisation. After all, India is a young country — it has the largest number of young people and they should be given due participation in the political process. It must be acknowledged that the Congress, being the oldest party in the country, is giving maximum representation to the youth and young people.
While you speak of greater representation of the youth in the Congress now, earlier too there was much talk of Youth Congress being given greater role and even tickets in Assembly elections; but that did not translate into reality.
That is not correct. Youth Congress leaders have been given tickets in elections. Even in the last Assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, several of our members were made party candidates. In the past three years, more than a hundred Youth Congress members have been selected as Congress candidates and given tickets, out of which 40 got elected. Rahul Gandhi has empowered the youth. Look at Ashok Tanwar, former president of the Youth Congress and now Member of Parliament who is also the secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). And Meenakshi Natarajan, also from the Youth Congress, who is now an MP as well as an AICC secretary. Two days ago, Waqar Rasool Wani, who was a Youth Congress member and now MLA from J&K, was sworn in as a minister in the state Cabinet and given charge of ten portfolios.
What responsibilities have been given to the Youth Congress?
We have been included in the discussions on crucial issues at the chintan shivir. A fortnight ago, we were also part of the special session at Delhi on the party’s scheme on Direct Cash Transfer — Aapka paise aapke Haath’. The Youth Congress, being a frontal organisation of the Congress, senior Congress leaders have been involving us in active work for the party.
What will be the role of the Youth Congress in the run-up to the 2014 general elections?
Wherever and whatever the party deputes us for, we will do. Moreover, in 2014, under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, we are hopeful that the party will form the government.