The laissez-faire leadership Congress president Sonia Gandhi favoured saw the party return to political centre stage in 2004 after years in the wilderness, and go from ruling four States in 1998 to 13 today. But that style of running the party may be just coming to an end. As Ms. Gandhi completed a record 15 years at the helm of affairs on Wednesday, it is clear that son Rahul Gandhi — appointed vice-president in Jaipur in January to oversee the transition of power in the 127-year-old party — believes in a more structured system of functioning.

Now, for instance, all State chiefs will have to submit reports in a prescribed format in consultation with the CLP leaders/Chief Ministers and general secretaries in-charge every three months to Mr. Gandhi. These reports will be prepared after each PCC chief has met every district chief and every district chief has met every block chief.

Sources in the party told The Hindu, “The status of the organisation right down to the block level will have to be listed as well as a political analysis of the State unit’s weaknesses and strengths, political issues, a short-term plan for the next three months and a long-term plan.” A road map for victory in civic polls, Assembly elections and general election will all have to be put down on paper. The level of coordination between various units has to be elaborated on, and if the prescribed party committees have not been constituted, reasons have to be given.

“The thing is, right now,” a general secretary elaborated, “there is no formal written record of what has been done, or is being done. When meetings are called, people come, present their ideas. The sense is all this needs to be put down in writing.” A State chief added, “Currently, there is no formal reporting and communication system — these reports are expected to fill that gap.”

For PCC chiefs thus far habituated to making their views known largely verbally to Ms. Gandhi which she, in turn, conveyed to the general secretary, the thought of all the paper work is not very alluring, especially as their continuance in their jobs will hinge on the quality of reporting. “Are people going to spend their time writing reports or be engaged in political work?” An office-bearer asked, stressing, “Will people put down on paper that some party members are not doing their work and risk creating tension within?” The format demands that PCC chiefs mention instances of infighting in State units and name trouble-makers.

Clearly, there are apprehensions about the introduction of what is being seen as a corporate style of functioning. Mr. Gandhi’s goal may be to strengthen the organisation right down to the grass roots level and increase accountability, but it is more than evident that there will be resistance to these ideas.

Earlier, as general secretary in-charge of the Youth Congress, Mr. Gandhi had introduced a ranking system to identify performing and non-performing office-bearers. Active, performing office-bearers were awarded a green rank, active but non-performing members yellow and inactive non-performers were shown the red card.

Meanwhile, Ms. Gandhi, embarking on her 16th year as Congress president, said that being at the helm was “not an easy task” — it was the party’s rank and file that had helped her do her job. “It was made possible due to your support and the love and affection of the grass roots and ordinary workers. That made the task easier and the credit goes to them,” she is reported to have told party leaders who called on her on Thursday to greet her. Her current presidency ends in 2015. Some PCC Chiefs had sought permission to celebrate the occasion, but Ms. Gandhi had advised them against it in view of the drought situation in parts of the country, the party sources added.

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