Indian National Congress (INC) president Sonia Gandhi today called for urgent changes in the organisation and emphasised that change in the working style of the party “was the need of the hour”, even as delegates were not allowed to carry mobile phones during internal discussions.
Inaugurating the three-day Chintan Shivir in Udaipur, Sonia Gandhi promised self-introspection and advocated a big revamp in the party’s organisational structure. The INC president urged all party members to prioritise organisation development over personal ambitions, so as to send out a strong message of internal unity in the country.
Sonia Gandhi feared leak
With the party’s internal deliberations often making their way out in public, the INC has adopted a cautious approach at the Chintan Shivir, with delegates not allowed to carry mobile phones during internal discussions.
The move comes after Sonia Gandhi had raised concerns at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting this week about internal discussions finding their way out into the media.
Following Gandhi’s address, over 400 delegates began deliberations on subject-specific issues across six groups. Keeping in view the confidentiality of the meetings of these groups, the leaders involved were not allowed to carry their mobile phones inside.
Before the start of the meetings, INC general secretary Ajay Maken told leaders that lockers have been provided for keeping mobile phones outside the meeting rooms. He said that apart from the delegates, no one else would be present at the premises of the meetings.
Party sources said that in view of some past experiences, the emphasis is on confidentiality in these meetings for a free and fair discussion.
The discussions at the Shivir will continue on the first and second day and the conclusions will be recorded in the form of a declaration, a draft of which will be discussed at the CWC meeting to be held there on the third and last day.
What INC is thinking at Chintan Shivar
The INC leaders indicated that several big-ticket changes were expected to be debated and adopted during the camp. The party is likely to enforce the “one family, one ticket” rule for future elections. However, as reports suggest the rule is unlikely to affect the Gandhis from contesting elections together.
Earlier today, addressing a press conference ahead of the Shivir, All India Congress Committee general secretary Ajay Maken spoke about the deliberations that are likely to happen during the brainstorming session of the party.
Maken said at least five years of experience would be required for anyone who wanted to contest elections on an INC ticket, with the exception when another family member had worked with the party for a minimum of 5 years.
A proposal is being considered that 50% of the positions in the party would be reserved for those less than 50 years of age in party committees at every level of the organisation.
Maken said there was almost complete unanimity among panel members to ensure that party leaders did not give tickets to their kin who had no record of working for the party.
“There is a cap of five years on holding a post in the Congress, after which the person will have to mandatorily step down,” Maken said. Meanwhile, a cooling-off period of three years, in which the person is allowed to come back to the same post is also under consideration.
The party is considering setting up an ‘assessment wing’ to monitor the performance of all office-bearers, Maken said. He said deliberations were on whether a ‘public insight department’ must be set up to ascertain views of the people and carry out surveys for getting battle-ready for elections.
The camp will focus on time-bound party restructuring, finding ways to combat politics of polarisation and rethinking defeats suffered by the party in the past many years.
This Chintan Shivir comes in the backdrop of the party’s drubbing in elections after elections since 2014. The party has not just lost the two Lok Sabha elections, but also several assembly elections. The INC is now in power on its own in just two states – Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The party is likely to formulate a sturdy strategy against the BJP for the upcoming 2024 general election.
With inputs from agencies