Monday, January 19, 2015

Congress preparing for grand revival

The party’s revival strategy has been primarily focused on state-specific organisational reforms.
Pankaj Sharma

19 January 2015, New Delhi,

The Congress party is working on a grand revival plan after its historic defeat in the 2014 general elections. After consulting Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice president Rahul Gandhi has been holding a series of meetings with state-level leaders to elicit their views and gather consensus on core areas for the party, its ideology and organisational reforms.

In the past few months Rahul Gandhi has been busy formulating methods required to progressively devolve power within the party and increase the accountability of its leaders at all levels. The party’s revamped agenda will be presented in the next session of the All India Congress Committee.

State units of the Congress party have been asked to submit their reports by the end of February. Sonia has asked Rahul to develop a state specific political strategy based on local factors and circumstances. All its state units are trying to incorporate four thematic areas in their final reports, which will be sent to the party general secretary in-charge of their respective states. Key thematic areas include ideology, organisation, communication and political strategy.

Rahul Gandhi has asked all the state units to submit a detailed report on the aspects of organisation and political strategy. He wants them to provide suggestions for areas that include party-government interface, institutionalising Congress committees as deliberative platforms, accountability, discipline,  departments, research and training, booth committees, cadre development, mass contact and social media.

Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that at a time when the central ruling dispensation is thriving on divisive politics, the Congress must lead a strong counter narrative. He also feels that the Congress party should sharpen its fight against caste, religion, region, gender and economic inequality. In addition, party leaders were also told that in the last few months the Congress has been the only political entity with a liberal agenda. The party, he argues, must reinforce its role as a political platform for social change in days to come.

State leaders have been asked to identify groups that should constitute the party’s base in their respective states. Rahul has made it clear that power has to be distributed within the party.

Inefficiencies in its distribution must be eradicated. Sonia Gandhi has also felt that power is often exercised by only four-five leaders in a state and sometimes even elected representatives are also unable to exercise the power vested in them by the constitution. Both the Gandhis have expressed concern over the fact that the bureaucracy, political executive and corporations have usurped the space meant for law making, policy formation and governance from elected representatives. The party’s top leadership wants to fight against this situation.

The party had suffered in the last general election because of certain decisions taken during the UPA-II government’s tenure. Therefore, the Congress party is now trying to establish a mechanism, whereby key policy decisions of Congress-led governments in the Centre and State will have to be first discussed and ratified by the party, through resolutions passed by a majority of District Congress Committees. It has also been decided that Congress president and vice president will have quarterly meetings with all party chief ministers, general secretaries, presidents of various Pradesh Congress Committees (PCC) and other leaders to review their performance.

Ticket distribution for different elections is also being streamlined. There is general feeling within Congress that poor distribution of tickets, especially by regional leaders, often damages its chances of victory. Consequently, the procedure of ticket distribution needs serious correction. Rahul Gandhi has asked various state leaders to find a way to ensure that block, district and pradesh committees play a significant role in the distribution of tickets.

The process of strengthening frontal organisations and different departments of the party is already underway. Sonia and Rahul also want independent cells to organise and mobilise communities such as weavers, fishermen, domestic workers, street vendors and auto rickshaw drivers and establish them at the level of the PCC. A high level committee to ensure coordination between Congress and Indian National Trade Union Congress may also be set up very soon.

The Congress party’s revival strategy is primarily focused on states. Senior leaders in the party feel that positioning based on local factors is the only way to revive it. Congress is working on a strategy that places immense importance on the youth. Rahul Gandhi will reportedly implement major changes in the electoral procedures for elections to the Youth Congress and NSUI. Several leaders from all states have told Rahul that the current system of elections to the Youth Congress is susceptible to subversion with the use of money and power.

They also told him that elected Youth Congress presidents should have the discretion to build their own teams instead of constraining them to work with those, who had contested against them. In lieu of the above suggestions, Rahul is preparing annual plans for various frontal organisations that address concerns for the youth.

If the revival plan takes the desired shape in coming months, we might find a new Congress party in the summer of 2015.  If requisite changes are made to the party’s organisational structure, it will gain greater electoral traction. 

Author is editor and CEO of News Views India

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