New Delhi: Overall, the 'Chintan Shivir' event organised by the Congress party at Udaipur in Rajasthan to discuss measures to revive its fortunes was a let-down. In 1998, the party had held another such event at Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh. That was six months after Sonia Gandhi had taken over as party president.
But, when the brainstorming at Udaipur began, the party had taken no decision regarding handing over the reins to Rahul Gandhi. After the conclusion of the event too, uncertainty prevailed over the matter even though the party could find no alternative to Rahul.
At Udaipur, Congress leaders were united in their demand to appoint Rahul as party president again and supported the move to give stress to organizational matters. However, the party could not finalize its strategy to counter the BJP. Congress also failed to chalk out its policies regarding crucial issues.
In fact, instead of a total revamp of the organization, the Udaipur event engaged only in a cosmetic exercise. No wonder, political observers feel that voices of dissent in the party would not be silenced by the decisions taken at the Chintan shivir.
Way back in 1974, at a camp held at Narora in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress had decided to focus on issues of social justice and promote itself as a party of the poor. At Pachmarhi 24 years later also, social justice was stressed. Another 24 years have passed and in Udaipur the party once again took a stand in favour of social justice.
The Congress also hinted at moving away from a liberalized economic policy. However, no final decision was arrived at in this regard.
During the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting held prior to the Chintan Shivir, Sonia Gandhi had expressed optimism, saying that the party would be able to overcome any challenge with unity and discipline. She was, in fact, urging party leaders and members to solve organizational issues to regain the trust of the traditional supporters.
An anomaly noticed during the Udaipur event was a decision on 50 per cent reservation for weaker sections, including Dalits, in party forums. However, it is pointed out that according to the party constitution, backwards sections and Dalits already enjoy a quota of 20 per cent, while women have 33 per cent reservation, making a total of 53 per cent. Incidentally, the 53 per cent quota is yet to be diligently implemented by the Congress.
Another decision relates to 'one-family, one-post.' But, it is pointed out that this proposal too has several loopholes.
Similarly, the call for higher representation for youth had been raised in 1974 as well as 1998. Incidentally, Rahul had faced much opposition when he attempted to appoint more young leaders in key posts. In 2022 also, a move to impose an age-limit for office-bearers met with resistance.
Meanwhile, it is also pointed out that a parliamentary board is a requirement under the party constitution, which has not been followed for the last 29 years. Even though leaders clamouring for inner-party democracy raised the matter at Udaipur also, it was rejected over apprehensions regarding creation of an alternative power centre that could challenge the party president.
In short, the decisions announced by the Congress after the Udaipur brainstorming event hardly gives evidence that the party would be strengthened before the elections to 1,333 seats in 11 state Assemblies which would take place during 2022-23 and the crucial Lok Sabha polls in 2024.