It was at the Jaipur Chintan Shivir nine years ago that the Congress named Rahul Gandhi as its vice president. This marked the beginning of a transitional phase, a generational change, in the grand old party. And the just concluded Chintan Shivir in Udaipur marked the culmination of this transition.

Just like the saying “every ending is a new beginning”, the culmination of this transition process has led to the Congress deciding that the time has come to pass the baton to the young blood in the organisation.

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A sign of what is in store was given by Rahul Gandhi in his address at the Nav Sankalp Shivir, when he mentioned “transforming the nature of Congress party. Not the nature in terms of its thinking, not the nature in terms of its ideology but its nature of the way we do our work.”

And the “to do” list approved by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) fleshed out the detailed strategy as to how the party plans to “transform the nature of the way it will function in future.”

KEY DECISIONS

To begin with, proposals that got the go-ahead from the CWC, the party’s highest decision-making body, addressed two key issues — how to strengthen the organisation and be battle-ready for elections. The proposals that got CWC’s stamp of approval include:

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’50 below 50’ formula: The Congress decided that younger leaders will be given more representation, right from the CWC to booth-level committees, with 50 per cent posts given those below 50 years of age.

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Fixed tenure: A cap of five years on term limit for all office bearers and ‘One Family, One Ticket.

System to monitor and evaluate performance and fix accountability. To address this issue, Congress decided to set up three new departments.

  • Election Management Department
  • Public Insight Department
  • Department for Performance Assessment

The party also plans to set up a National Training Institute which would train the younger generation for various key positions and handle big responsibilities. A Leadership Development Mission is also in the works for weaker sections.

All vacant posts from block to Pradesh Congress Committee level will be filled in 90-120 days.

‘One Family, One Ticket’ formula, with a rider of mandatory five years of experience doing organisational work for the second aspirant.

Constitution of Political Affairs committee: A sub-group of the CWC to for programme implementation and advice. Public Affairs committees will be set up in the party’s state units too.

‘Quota within Quota’ and setting up of Social Justice Advisory Council to aid and advise the Congress President on SC-ST, OBC, minority and women’s issues.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said, “No other organisation does this kind of frank introspection, the way Congress did in Nav Sankalp Shivir. We did a thorough SWOT analysis and came up with some good remedial solutions and the result of the same will be seen in coming days.”

POLL BATTLE READINESS

The vote share of the Congress in the last three Lok Sabha polls — from 2009 till 2019 — was between 10-12 crore, which is a consistent vote bank.

According to sources, this said a lot. A CWC member told India Today TV, “This means most of the ‘new’ votes were going to other parties, the reason being that Congress wasn’t able to connect with the new generation. And to address this biggest concern, Rahul Gandhi announced major mass connect programs by way of padyatras, complete overhaul of the communication department and [poll] tickets based on proper scientific feedback.”

MAJOR OUTREACH DRIVE

Rahul Gandhi, in his speech at the Nav Sankap Shivir, said that there are “no shortcuts” and the party must reach out to people by way of mass contact programs including ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’.

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“We must have a mass contact program, where all of us, regardless of our age, our position goes to people of India, understand what they want and tell them Congress has done and what party plans to do,” Gandhi had said emphasising that ‘connect’ with people and within party must be restored.

In short, the Congress has opened its doors for a two-way connection with people. Congress IT department chief Pravin Chakravarty said, “Congress has opened its doors. We will welcome suggestions from people and go to them instead of being stuck at 24 Akbar Road.”

According to sources, a feedback that many leaders gave at the Chintan Shivir was that a lot of office bearers, including a few general secretaries, stay in Delhi for the most part, visit states for a limited time and don’t meet party workers often.

“This is all set to change. There is a clear-cut roadmap wherein the connection wouldn’t just be restored with people by way of padyatras, janta durbars, public meetings but a proper feedback mechanism from party workers about the performance of each leader,” said another CWC member.

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REVAMPED COMMUNICATION STRATEGY

As popular narratives help in winning electoral battles, the Congress plans to completely restructure its communication system with integration of various departments.

In his address, Rahul Gandhi stated, “The 21st century is about communication and if there is one area where our opponents outdo us, it is in communication. They have much more money than us and they are better at communication than we are, so we must think about communication, completely reform our communication systems and communicate with people of India, with the youngsters in a new way.”

Congress spokesperson Gaurav Vallabh summed up, “Yes, we do have challenges. And we have to turn our shortcomings into strength. But have you seen any political party’s leadership across the world that has the courage to accept their weaknesses? The message is simple, that to rectify a problem is to accept the weakness.”

According to many in-charges, CWC members plan to “bust the myth” created by the BJP that nothing happened in the last 70 years, and for that a separate communication campaign is being worked upon.

ON LEADERSHIP

A CWC member who wished to remain anonymous as he happens to be the in-charge of a state, related to India Today TV an incident that took place at the Chintan Shivir.

“In the organisation committee meeting, some leaders pointed out that there are some leaders in the party who do not accept the Gandhis’ leadership. Mukul Wasnik, who was the convenor of the party and was part of G-23, promptly replied to 70-odd committee members that nobody has raised any question about leadership of Gandhis, and everyone accepts them as the party’s top leadership,” the CWC said.

Another CWC member said that the non-Gandhi leadership debate was put to rest at the Udaipur conclave. All leaders from across country accepted the Gandhi family would continue to helm the party, and nobody, including the G-23, said a word against it.

A senior Congress general secretary added, “The G-23 is obsolete. What remains is G2 or G3 – the ones who don’t have ground connect or backers in the party. Many have left and many have stopped being part of the group because their demands to fill vacant posts and holding organisation elections, including that of CWC and president posts, have been met.”

OTHER TAKEAWAYS

  • The Gandhis will lead the Congress from the front in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, starting with the Bharat Jodo Yatra, a mass outreach programme spanning from Kashmir to Kanyakumari that kicks off on October 2.
  • Rahul Gandhi has given emphasis on running the organisation in a scientific and professional manner. Decisions will be based on proper scientific feedback.
  • On alliances, Rahul Gandhi has sent the message that they want to give space to regional aspirations in states, but when it comes to the national level, only the Congress can take on the BJP.
  • Dialogue is the way forward in the organisation, but there will be an equal focus on discipline.
  • Rahul Gandhi’s summed up his speech the direction in which the Congress will go from Udaipur onwards.

An “actionable strategy” has been forged, the Congress who’s who have presented a united front and hit the right notes. But whether the plan is implemented in letter and spirit and in a time-bound manner, is a ‘chinta’ for a later date.

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