New Delhi: Reaching out to the strata between BPL and middle class, Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said Congress will focus on giving these 70 crore people a better life and basic social security as he sought direct feedback from labourers and street vendors for the Lok Sabha poll manifesto.
"The meaning of policy should be that 70 crore people of the country have a concrete base support so that they are assured that whatever be the circumstances, their condition will not plummet beyond that base
"The target in the next five-ten years should be that we upgrade these 70 crore people to middle class. These are the people, who run the country," Mr Gandhi said.
His remarks came a day after he said in Raipur that the party's focus will be on uplifting those who fall between below poverty line and middle class.
Mr Gandhi's remarks reaching out to this new growing class of people have been interpreted as an attempt to find new constituency for Congress, whose traditional support base of 'aam aadmi' (common man), seems to have dwindled after emergence of Aam Aadmi Party even as BJP is perceived to be cornering a significant chunk of the middle classes, especially in urban areas.
"If we want to bring them in middle class, we will have to provide them with basic minimum support...we will have to give them concrete base beneath their feet," Mr Gandhi stressed.
The Congress Vice President had during his last few interactions made a strong pitch for skill development and employment generation through honing of existing skills and giving such skilled labours an identity.
Interacting with labour representatives from organised and unorganised sectors, Mr Gandhi also referred to his train journey in ordinary sleeper class from Gorakhpur to Mumbai in 2010 during which he had had a long discussion with migrant workers from eastern Uttar Pradesh.
"I have interacted with a number of labourers and asked them about their insecurity. Their response is that they do not know what will they face tomorrow. They told me that I have solid ground beneath my feet which they do not have.
"The need is that we give them this concrete, this base to them. So that whatever be the situation, there is something on which they are able to stand. The meaning of the rights is that you give them a certain base below which they do not have to fall in adversities," Mr Gandhi said addressing the gathering.
He said that there should be basic social security for all Indians. Mr Gandhi said he will push for clearance of Street Vendors Bill in the upcoming session of Parliament, as also for implementation of the recommendations to empower the denotified and nomadic tribes in the country.
Recalling the interactions during his 30-hour-long train journey with artisans, ironsmiths and painters, Mr Gandhi said that their skills have no official recognition and they are hugely dependent on contractors for livelihood.
"They told me that they do not have the identity for the skills they have, but if somebody goes to NIIT, he gets a certificate. It is true. Everytime such workers go to Mumbai from Gorakhpur, they have to convince people about their skills afresh as nobody knows about them," Mr Gandhi said.
The interaction that was organised in Delhi is part of the on-going process by Congress this time to seek feedback from various stakeholders and will be followed by another such elaborate exercise with farmers.
Mr Gandhi has so far held consultations with representatives of minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Youth, Women and elected representatives of Panchayats.
During the interaction on Thursday, the Congress Vice President told a woman participant that social security will not be possible without giving them identity. He asked another participant about Right to Financial Inclusion and Right to Bank Account and how these could be done.
Mr Gandhi also talked about UPA's flagship scheme MNREGA recalling that whenever he talked to labourers before the launch of scheme, they would speak of uncertainties about their next employment in those days.
The interactions saw demands like setting up of a National Commission for Labour on the lines of National Commission for Women as well as hike in the salary of Aanganwadi Workers.
While consultations with youths were organised in the city of technocrats Bangalore, his consultations with women representatives was held in Bhopal.
A day-long consultation programme with elected Panchayat members was held in Sevagram village named by Mahatma Gandhi in Wardha in Nagpur last Friday.