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Chintan Shivir: Congress Promises 'Big Changes' As Brainstorming Conclave Begins In Udaipur

The three-day 'Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir' is being held in the backdrop of a slew of electoral defeats and dissent that has been prevailing in the party for the past many years.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, leader Rahul Gandhi and General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, leader Rahul Gandhi and General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala PTI

In a bid to restructure the party after a series of assembly poll debacles in 2022 and contemplate the underlying reasons behind the electoral defeats, over 400 Congress leaders are scheduled go into a huddle at its brainstorming conclave 'Chintan Shivir' which is starting on Friday in Udaipur.

The three-day 'Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir' which is being held in the backdrop of a slew of electoral defeats and dissent that has been prevailing in the party for the past many years, is likely to emphasize on time-bound party restructuring, finding ways to combat politics of polarisation and getting battle-ready for upcoming electoral challenges.

Right ahead of the conclave in Udaipur, Congress president Sonia Gandhi at a CWC meeting earlier this week cautioned that self-criticism is needed in party forums but it should not be done to erode self-confidence and morale, as she asserted that it is time "to repay our debt to the party".

Rahul Gandhi and several other senior leaders of Congress have already reached Udaipur by train in an overnight journey, while Sonia Gandhi reached Udaipur on May 13 by air. 

'Big changes' expected

Ahead of the start of the conclave, Congress general secretary Ajay Maken addressed the media and promised “big changes" in store for the party organisation. He added that the new modification it will completely transform the party's working style in the days to come. According to Maken, a proposal to reserve 50 per cent of party positions for candidates aged less than 50 years in party committees and every level of party organisation. with elections in sight, Maken said that Congress is working on creating a 'public insight department' to better understand the mood and issues of people across constituencies.

It is also working on creating 'assessment wings' to purvey the performance of party workers and legislators to ensure optimum performance of the party. 

The conclave is scheduled to begin with introductory remarks of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on May 13 and a valedictory address by Rahul Gandhi on May 15.

At the conclave, the 400 delegates will be divided into six groups to address various subject-specific issues. These discussions 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 last day.

Top Congress leaders will come out with solutions and clear the party's stance on key issues including polarisation, Centre-state ties, forming of alliances and attempts at bringing in "uniformity", especially in the Northeast, that are confronting the country and the party, Congress sources said.

What are the objectives of the conclave?

Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the 'Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir' is also aimed at deliberating on challenges facing the country such as "freefall of the economy", increasing inequality of wealth, price rise of essential commodities, "deep-rooted conspiracy" to hand over farming sector to a select group of private corporates, "attack on India's territorial integrity by China, "attack" on rights of Dalits, SCs/STs, minorities and attempts to divide by using Hindu-Muslim rhetoric.

Unlike in the past, when 'Chintan Shivirs' did not set any set timelines, the Udaipur declaration is expected to opt for state time-bound initiation and accomplishment of structural changes in the organisation at all levels - national, state, district and block levels.

"As India is plagued by the painful lines of division and hatred, it is obligatory on the Indian National Congress to defend the ethos of the Indian nation and find lasting solutions for peaceful co-existence," Surjewala said at a media briefing in Delhi on Thursday.

The General Secretary of the Indian National Congress also pointed out that the bulldozer of bigotry, superstition, sectarianism, fanaticism, injustice and intolerance "heaped upon the nation" by the BJP government has to a large extent trampled upon India’s march ahead. 

Congress's new roadmap 

The Congress has chosen six subjects and constituted groups accordingly to examine and submit their primary reports on actionables for the same. 

The respective groups are expected to discuss political, social justice and empowerment, economy, Congress organisation, Kisan and Khet Mazdoor and Youth. They will also present their first impressions for a conclusive discussion during the 'Chintan Shivir' (brainstorming session).

"The 430 invitees to the 'Chintan Shivir' will be divided into different groups and they shall discuss and deliberate over a period of three days, on various facets and challenges, in order to lay down a roadmap. The conclusions shall be presented to the Congress president, and thereafter, to the Congress Working Committee (CWC), for final shape and approval," Surjewala said.

The roadmap will provide a way forward not only to the Congress to meet up with the current set of "reverses and challenges", but will also pave the way for a resilient, strong and inclusive nation, he said.

What is the leadership saying?

Sonia Gandhi at the CWC meeting earlier this week had also warned against 'Chintan Shivir' becoming a ritual and asserted that she was determined that it should herald a restructured organisation to meet the many ideological, electoral and managerial tasks it confronts.

She has sought the cooperation of all leaders in sending across the message of unity, cohesion and commitment to ensure the party's accelerated revival, while underlining that "there are no magic wands".

The issue of leadership in the Congress is not likely to be discussed at the Udaipur conclave, party sources said, even as several leaders at the shivir are likely to rake up the issue of Rahul Gandhi taking over the party leadership. 

"The leadership issue will not be on the table," a leader said.

At a press conference after the CWC meet, Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Surjewala had said the aim of the shivir is to prepare a new action plan and roadmap to get the party battle-ready for the 2024 Lok Sabha and upcoming assembly elections.

"It is not a destination, it is the beginning of a long journey. It is a milestone. After each of the 'Chintan Shivirs', the organisation has undergone a transformation, this is a transformation of unprecedented magnitude," Ramesh had said.

(With PTI Inputs)

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