Thought and action: On Cong’s three-day Chintan Shivir

Chintan shivir did little to enforce accountability at the top leadership in the Congress

May 18, 2022 12:09 am | Updated 12:09 am IST

The three-day Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir of the Congress in Udaipur has charted an action plan for its revival. The proof will be in its implementation, but at a minimum it acknowledges the party’s shortcomings. The party plans to give more opportunities to the youth, limit dynastic politics with a ‘one family, one ticket’ rule, and have a new deal for socially weaker groups such as the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and the minorities. In a major deviation from its earlier position, the Congress is now backing sub-quotas for SCs, STs and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the women’s reservation Bill that has been hanging fire for long. A Social Justice Advisory Council is to advise the Congress president on issues regarding socially weaker groups. Half of the party posts are to be filled with people under the age of 50, a principle that will be applied in the selection of candidates too. Other measures announced include a Public Insight Committee to gather feedback on key political issues, a training institute to bring ideological clarity for party workers, and a committee for constant election preparedness — all aimed to overcome the inertia and decadence that have immobilised the party.

The Chintan Shivir was prompted by the party’s repeated electoral failures and serious questions about the effectiveness of the leadership of the Gandhi family, but it did very little in terms of addressing and enforcing the principle of accountability at the top. In fact, the three-day brainstorming session saw a clear assertion by the Gandhis. Amid demands by leaders of the G-23 — the ginger group purportedly pushing for internal reforms and collective leadership — to revive the Congress Parliamentary Board, party chief Sonia Gandhi announced the setting up of an advisory group from among the senior Congress Working Committee members. Ms. Gandhi made it clear that there would not be collective decision-making and that her word was final. While such an assertion may convey the message of being in control, that is no solution to the sagging popularity of the party and the family. Former party chief Rahul Gandhi admitted that the party had lost its connect with the people, but did not offer anything new. Udaipur was an assertion of his role at the helm, which will in all probability be formalised in the forthcoming organisational election. A Bharat Jodo (Unite India) yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and Jan Jagran Abhiyan (public awareness campaign) as ideas sound good, but a lot will depend on his ability to reinvent himself in an era that rewards and punishes individual leaders disproportionate to their role. If the Udaipur meet is not to end up as a new bargain among power brokers and interest groups, the party will have to immediately begin a process of regeneration free of nepotism and avarice.

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