Jobs, farm distress main poll issues, not national security though it is important: Chidambaram

New Delhi, Apr 21 (PTI) The Congress Sunday said national security is an important issue but the issues dominating the narrative in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections were unemployment and farm distress. Unveiling a report on national security by a task force headed by Lieutenant General (retd) D S Hooda, the Congress said it would be "completely wrong" to say that national security was dominating the poll narrative, though it is an important issue. The Congress unveiled the report in the presence of senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Jairam Ramesh and said that its approach towards national security is "not ad hoc and not impulsive". "As far as the election narrative is concerned, the number one issue remains unemployment. The number two issue is farm distress and the number three issue is security of various sections of the people, women, Dalits, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, forest dwellers, journalists, academicians and NGOs," Chidambaram told reporters. When asked whether this report, which has been made public during the Lok Sabha elections, is meant to change the narrative on national security, Chidambaram said, "National security is an important aspect of the narrative. But to say that it is dominating the narrative is completely wrong." He said the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi has been speaking about jobs, farm distress and security of different sections of people everyday during campaigning. Hooda earlier said India's economy is doing "extremely well" and so was India doing diplomatically and thus it should assume its "rightful place in global affairs". He later sought to clarify, saying, "There is no need to give everything a political colour. The fact is that India is a growing economy. Now we are one of the largest economies in the world which is a fact and because of this we should leverage our position in global affairs." Asked whether he agreed with Hooda's remarks on the economy doing well, Chidambaram said, "Even when the country grows only at 5 per cent, the economy grows. So, what General Hooda said is we are a growing economy. We grew it (the economy) faster under the UPA and we are growing today at a limping pace. The real growth is about 5 per cent, but we are still growing that is the point he made," he said. Ramesh chipped in, saying what Hooda meant was that India's economy has done well in the last 15-20 years or last 50 years and not "just in last five years". On the prime minister's remark that while the BJP has "desh bhakti", it is "vote bhakti" for Congress, Ramesh said, "Taking away jobs or note ban or causing pain to farmers is not patriotism. Patriotism will not come by beating the chest, but by providing jobs to youth. There is a lot of difference between our patriotism and that of the BJP." Chidambaram said Hooda's report is a broad outline of how to approach the issue of national security. "We have taken several features of Lieutenant General D S Hooda's plan (in the manifesto). These ideas will be implemented when we form our government." "Our approach is not ad hoc, our approach is not impulsive, our approach is after careful study and deliberation, and we will take the necessary measures. Our interest is to protect India's national security," he said. Chidambaram said while Hooda's report has been made public, the party has also brought out a two-page summary for its approach to the problem. "This is a serious issue. It cannot be treated as part of muscular politics. We are not talking anything about the size of our chest here, we are talking about serious issues and this two page outline and the document shows how serious the Congress is about national security," he said. The former home minister said, "We have spent many, many hours reflecting on the subject. We have developed several ideas and these ideas will be implemented when we are in government." He said there are several structures within the government, like the National Security Advisory Board, the National Security Council, the Cabinet Committee on Security, through which the plan "will undergo revision." Hooda, while presenting the report, said there are five pillars of national security in the report. The first four being assuring India its "rightful place" in global affairs, securing India's neighbourhood, peaceful resolution of internal conflicts like Jammu and Kashmir issue and ensuring "Jan Suraksha" (protecting the people), he said. "The fifth and final pillar is strengthening our capabilities. We have drafted the report based on a road map for enhancing our hard power," Hooda said. "Keeping in view the nature of future war fighting, there is a need to build up capabilities and ensure adequate budgetary support is available to the three services," said Hooda, who is credited with having led India's surgical strikes on terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in September 2016. Asked about the serial attacks in Sri Lanka and its effect on India, Chidambaram said, "If the neighbourhood is conflicted then India will also face conflicts. If there has been a terrorist attack, we condemn it and we will do everything in our power and authority to help our neighbours protect their national security and help our neighbours maintain peace in their countries," he said. PTI SKC SKC INDIND