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After 30 years of liberalisation, Congress pushes for policy 'reset'

UDAIPUR: Congress on Saturday demanded a reset in the economic policies as part of a recalibration after 30 years of liberalisation, while expressing concerns over the state of the economy, ranging from the jobs scenario to growth to inflation. It said the reset should take care of extreme poverty among the bottom 10% of the population, rising inequality, and India's high rank on global hunger index 2021, which it attributed to the Modi government's "failures".

P Chidambaram, steering the party's review of economic policy stance at the Chintan Shivir, said three decades of liberalisation by Congress ushered in growth and lifted 27 crore people out of poverty during a 10-year period, but global and domestic developments now necessitate a reset.

While he did not spell out what the reset could be, Chidambaram's focus on addressing issues of inequality, poverty, health, nutrition and education outcomes, suggested that Congress may come out with a welfarist stance.

The former finance minister, however, rebuffed suggestions that the party was seeking a partial rollback of liberalisation that it had ushered in 1991, when he was a key member of the reforms team. "We are not stepping back on liberalisation, we are stepping forward post-liberalisation," he remarked.

As the Congress Working Committee will approve the 'Udaipur nav-sankalp (new-resolve)' on Sunday based on deliberations on governance policy and party organisation, it is to be seen how the party redefines its idea of the economy.

"What the Modi government is doing is another repeat of 'India Shining'. We are confident we will be able to put forward an economic roadmap that will appeal to the people and defeat the hyperbole and exaggeration of the Modi government," he said.

Chidambaram said the government is clueless about the remedial measures for pepping up the sagging economy, and also warned that the fiscal position of the states is fragile. He said, "The time is ripe for a comprehensive review of Centre-states fiscal relations" and demanded an extension of the GST compensation period by three years beyond June.

Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is leading the drafting of Congress stance on agriculture, demanded a law guaranteeing MSP for crops, and setting up of a national farm debt relief commission to solve debt-related grievances of farmers through conciliation as done in the case of industrial loans. He said agriculture should be treated at par with industry as far as banking is concerned.

Congress will undertake a public awareness drive-agitation on the issue of rising prices as the second leg of its 'jan-jagran abhiyan'. The decision was taken at a discussion with state leaders and AICC state managers chaired by Rahul Gandhi as latest data showed retail inflation had hit an eight-year high of 7.8% in April.

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