An AICC Committee for Sustained Agitations has been formed to function as a platform of the Indian National Congress (INC) to mobilise party rank and file and link them with civil society organisations — euphemism for “NGOs” — activists and intellectuals, and channelise the shared anger against the Modi government on policy and political issues, people familiar with the plan said.
The INC, which cleverly managed a farce called Anna movement in 2011 where an issue was raised on 5 April and settled by 8 April and then end the activists’ purported fight against corruption with orange juice offered by corruption-accused Vilasrao Deshmukh in August that year, aims to repeat the experiment, now as an opposition party. Party sources say, however, that there is a problem in the plan. “The RSS had been taken for a ride in 2011 while the saffron organisation is not going to lend the force of its swayamsevaks this time,” a strategist in the party said on the condition of anonymity.
Apart from mobilising INC workers, the panel would reach out to anti-BJP social activists, NGOs and intellectuals who have been critical of the Modi regime or have been confronted by it, party insiders said. Digvijaya Singh, whom Sonia Gandhi picked as chairman of the panel, is known to network with civil society organisations and activists opposed to the Sangh Parivar.
“This would mean Shaheen Bagh 2.0 or another Delhi riot,” said an RSS pracharak on learning about the Congress plan.
AICC insiders said Sonia Gandhi had already briefed Singh on the course of the nine-member panel, which includes Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra. The panel is slated to hold its first meeting next week.
The ongoing farmers protest meetings, with a Bharat Bandh on 27 September, and the proposed nationwide protests against the union government from 20 to 30 Septemberby the INC and 18 like-minded opposition parties, could become the immediate focus of the panel’s first meeting as they could be used as debut programmes, people familiar with the planning said.
Issues like monetisation, inflation, unemployment and aggression of Sangh Parivar outfits too could invite future attention for mobilising agitations. Since Vadra is AICC general secretary in-charge of poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Singh too had stints as AICC pointsman for Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the panel may also work to back up the poll-bound party units with agitations against BJP state governments.
The brief for the new party panel makes it clear that it will not be a parallel forum but will work within INC organisational framework and under the functional direction of AICC general secretary (organisation). The panel will coordinate with PCCs on mobilising party workers for agitations.
Congress circles will be keen on seeing how Gandhi picking Singh, a known ‘agent provocateur’ against RSS-BJP, to head the panel to mobilise INC agitations against the Modi regime would sharpen the battlelines. The Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP has already responded by calling Singh “Pakistan’s sleeper cell”. INC leaders will be watching if Singh would tap his personal rapport with many of the 23 INC change seekers to join the panel’s programmes despite his refusal to join them.
Another point of interest would be how the AICC panel provides Priyanka Vadra her much-craved break from the ‘Uttar Pradesh conundrum’ and how she taps the ‘national brief’ with opportunities and challenges. Her mother’s experiment to constitute a committee exclusively for agitations came after many recent stir announcements of the party leadership against the union government ended up mostly only on social media and in the AICC control room.