From Sonia’s ascension in 1998 to Rahul’s in 2013: A look back at previous Congress ‘Chintan Shivirs’

The most sensible management of the Congress from throughout India has assembled in Udaipur, Rajasthan, for a three-day “Chintan Shivir” — the fourth previously two-and-a-half a long time — that starts on Friday to seek out tactics to win elections and finish the birthday celebration’s recent history of setbacks and internal discord. But the context of this conclave isn’t the same as the former ones and Congress leaders say the cases that forced the birthday celebration to get right into a huddle are remarkable and remarkable. The management factor hovers about and the birthday celebration has no credible solution to the polarisation politics of the BJP. The Congress has additionally observed an exodus of leaders, each old and young, signalling that many see no gentle on the finish of the tunnel.

Addressing the Congress Working Committee (CWC) previous this week, Congress president Sonia Gandhi mentioned there have been no magic wands that could help the party revive. “The party has been central to the life of each and every one of us. It has expected our total allegiance and has been good to each and every one of us. Now, when we are at a crucial juncture, it is imperative that we step forward and repay our debt to the party in full measure,” she added.

Sonia in Pachmarhi

Gandhi expressed an identical sentiments again in 1998 too. In her first deal with to the All India Congress Committee (AICC) consultation as Congress president, on April 6 that yr, she mentioned, “I have come to this office at a critical point in the history of the party. Our numbers in Parliament have dwindled. Our support base among the electorate has been seriously eroded. Some segments of voters — including tribals, Dalits and minorities — have drifted from us. We are in danger of losing our central place in the polity of our country as the natural party of governance.”

The Congress had slumped to 141 seats only a month previous within the common elections. It had suffered a defeat two years previous too.

Emphasising that she used to be no saviour and that the birthday celebration should be life like in its expectancies, Gandhi mentioned “the revival of our party is going to be a long-drawn process, involving sincere hard work, from each and every one of us…”

Sonia Gandhi, Jitender Prashad and PV Narasimha Rao at a prior AICC consultation. (Express Archive)

She requested the birthday celebration to “shun what is expedient and stand by what is right” and mentioned the management should emerge from the grassroots and mirror its aspirations.

That September, the Congress held a “Vichar Manthan Shivir” in Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh. In her inaugural deal with, the Congress president mentioned, “Electoral reverses are inevitable and are, in themselves, not cause for worry. But what is disturbing is the loss of our social base, of the social coalition that supports us and looks up to us. What is also worrisome is that intra-party discord seems to take up so much of our time and energy when it ought to be channelised for working together to regain popular support and public credibility.”

She added, “The question we must ask ourselves is whether we have in any way diluted our commitment to the fight against communal forces. It would perhaps be tempting to say we have not. However, there is a general perception that we have at times compromised with our basic commitment to the secular ideal that forms the bedrock of our society.”

At the conclave, the Congress’s resolution to shun alliances made headlines. The birthday celebration believed that the coalition technology used to be a “transient phase” in Indian politics. Gandhi, in her concluding remarks, mentioned, “The fact that we are going through a coalition phase at national level politics reflects in many ways the decline of the Congress. This is a passing phase and we will come back again with full force and on our own steam.”

The Pachmarhi declaration echoed the commentary, putting forward that “the party considers the present difficulties in forming one-party governments a transient phase in the evolution of our polity” and pledging “to restore the party to its primacy in national affairs”.

The Congress made up our minds that “coalitions will be considered only when absolutely necessary and that too on the basis of agreed programmes that will not weaken the party or compromise its basic ideology”. The birthday celebration mentioned it will “unflinchingly meet the challenge of the communal forces as represented by the BJP and its associates in the Sangh Parivar, such as the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, and those outside, such as the Shiv Sena, with no compromise or dilution of the well-established principles and practice of secularism, defined and evolved by the party as crucial to our nationhood”. Fast-forward nearly 24 years and the birthday celebration now stocks energy in Maharashtra with the Shiv Sena, reflecting how a lot the political panorama has modified.

At the top of the brainstorming consultation, the Congress followed a 14-point course of action for revival and resolved to stop and oppose any transfer to dilute reservations. It known as for the filling of vacancies, promotions and desire in govt employment for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), weaker sections of society, and minorities, and mentioned there must now not be any discrimination in opposition to such communities. It mentioned if those communities face any atrocities, stern motion must be taken in opposition to the responsible.

At the Congress’s Jaipur ‘Chintan Shivir’ in January 2013, Rahul Gandhi used to be appointed as Congress vp with a lot fanfare. (Express Photo via Anil Sharma)

The birthday celebration made up our minds to recognise the significance of empowering the adolescence and famous the loss of consideration to the query of voluntary inhabitants keep watch over. It made up our minds to make it a key part of the birthday celebration programme and mentioned, “Any party member who becomes the parent of more than two children after January 1, 2000, will be ineligible for selection or election to any party office or for selection as a party candidate for any election.”

Organisationally, the Congress made up our minds to accord “the highest priority to the revival and renewal of the party” in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu and licensed a suggestion to ascertain a Congress Election Authority composed of eminent, independent, and extremely revered senior leaders to make sure unfastened and honest elections “at all levels of the party”.

Election to all ranges within the Congress is a requirement that the G-23 team of dissident leaders has made many times.

Over to Shimla

The Pachmarhi conclave failed to restore the birthday celebration. Its electoral efficiency worsened within the 1999 Lok Sabha elections and the birthday celebration ended up with 114 seats. Soon after, the Congress underwent convulsions, with senior leaders Sharad Pawar, P A Sangma, and Tariq Anwar elevating a banner of insurrection in opposition to Gandhi. It ended with their go out. In 2000, senior chief Jitendra Prasada challenged Gandhi when she stood for re-election for the publish of Congress president.

By the time, the Shimla conclave came about in July 2003 — slightly a yr prior to the 2004 common elections — the Congress have been out of energy on the Centre for seven years, nearly like how it’s now. But the stark distinction between then and now could be that the Congress on the time had 15 leader ministers whilst now it regulations simplest two states.

Rahul and Sonia Gandhi on the Congress’s Jaipur ‘Chintan Shivir’ in January 2013. (Express Photo via Anil Sharma)

At the “Shimla Shivir”, the birthday celebration considerably followed a nuanced stand on coalition politics and known as for the solidarity of secular forces. This indicated its openness to sharing energy on the Centre. More importantly, the birthday celebration put ahead an alternate fashion of rights-based governance, promising to enact a countrywide rural employment ensure act, be certain that meals and vitamin safety for everybody at extra reasonably priced costs, and introduce social insurance coverage and different schemes for the safety and welfare of all staff, specifically for the ones within the unorganised sector. The birthday celebration additionally promised to boost up the implementation of land reforms; release programmes for the industrial development, social empowerment, political illustration, and criminal equality of Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, and minorities; and get started a functional discussion with personal industries on how India’s social range may just mirror within the personal sector via other ways reminiscent of reservations and monetary incentives.

In Jaipur, prior to the decline

By the time, the Congress discovered itself on the Jaipur “Chintan Shivir” in January 2013, a yr forward of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, it used to be a Rahul Gandhi display. The birthday celebration used to be in energy on the time, in contrast to the former two conclaves. It used to be in Jaipur that Rahul, then an AICC common secretary, first termed energy a “poison”. He has expressed the sentiment in quite a lot of alternative ways since then.

At the conclave, Rahul used to be increased as Congress vp with a lot fanfare. But, with the Anna Hazare motion at its top, the central message in Jaipur used to be directed extra on the Manmohan Singh govt that used to be buffeted via corruption fees.

With the birthday celebration on the point of face the Lok Sabha elections the next yr, the Jaipur declaration mentioned, “Congress will go to the people on the basis of the performance of the Congress-led UPA government, the promise of stability and good governance, and a restatement of its core values and ideology – secularism, nationalism, social justice, social cohesion, and economic growth for all, especially the ‘aam aadmi’ representing the poor and the middle classes.”

The declaration spoke of the quite a lot of tasks of the UPA govt, together with rights-based law such because the Right to Information Act, the Right to Education Act, the MGNREGA, the Forest Rights Act and those that had been at the anvil — the Land Acquisition Act and a meals safety regulation.

But organisational issues that hampered the birthday celebration then exist even now. And one of the crucial therapies additionally stay the similar. For example, the Jaipur declaration mentioned the management on the block and district ranges must emerge from elected participants of panchayats and nagar palikas, with vital illustration for SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities, and girls. The birthday celebration remains to be having discussions concerning the illustration of those teams.

The Congress’s communique technique additionally stays a disadvantage. The Jaipur declaration mentioned, “The party needs to be in a better position to harness new information technologies and use them to communicate effectively to the people through the traditional and the social media. The social media can give the party useful feedback on how the people perceive the government and what they expect from it. Regional and local media will also be actively engaged. The party will also deepen and widen the use of IT in the organization by setting up IT cells right up to the block level.”

In states the place it’s not in energy, the declaration mentioned the birthday celebration would draw up a listing of present and in the neighborhood related problems and behavior competitive demonstrations and agitations constantly. The Congress mentioned it will make sure that it gifts itself as a reputable selection to the events in energy in such states. But the Congress has misplaced state after state since then.

“Nepotism in the organisation’s structure is a cause of great concern and there is a need to arrest this tendency firmly,” the birthday celebration declared however there has now not been a lot headway at the subject.

Even small issues that had been discussed within the Jaipur declaration have now not been totally applied. The advice to create a brand new organisational unit on the panchayat degree as a hyperlink between the sales space and the block is now a part of the proposals for organisational reform that will likely be mentioned in Udaipur.

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