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Home India From Sonia’s ascension in 1998 to Rahul’s in 2013: A look back...

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


The high management of the Congress from throughout India has assembled in Udaipur, Rajasthan, for a three-day “Chintan Shivir” — the fourth prior to now two-and-a-half a long time — that begins on Friday to seek out methods to win elections and finish the social gathering’s recent history of setbacks and internal discord. But the context of this conclave is completely different from the earlier ones and Congress leaders say the circumstances that compelled the social gathering to get right into a huddle are unprecedented and unparalleled. The management subject hovers about and the social gathering has no credible reply to the polarisation politics of the BJP. The Congress has additionally seen an exodus of leaders, each younger and outdated, signalling that many see no gentle on the finish of the tunnel.

Addressing the Congress Working Committee (CWC) earlier 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 comparable sentiments again in 1998 too. In her first handle to the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session as Congress president, on April 6 that 12 months, 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 earlier within the normal elections. It had suffered a defeat two years earlier too.

Emphasising that she was no saviour and that the social gathering have to be real looking in its expectations, 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…”

She requested the social gathering to “shun what is expedient and stand by what is right” and mentioned the management should emerge from the grassroots and replicate its aspirations.

That September, the Congress held a “Vichar Manthan Shivir” in Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh. In her inaugural handle, 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 social gathering believed that the coalition period was 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 comment, affirming 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 determined 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 social gathering mentioned it might “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 virtually 24 years and the social gathering now shares energy in Maharashtra with the Shiv Sena, reflecting how a lot the political panorama has modified.

At the top of the brainstorming session, the Congress adopted a 14-point plan of motion for revival and resolved to forestall and oppose any transfer to dilute reservations. It known as for the filling of vacancies, promotions and choice in authorities employment for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs), weaker sections of society, and minorities, and mentioned there shouldn’t be any discrimination in opposition to such communities. It mentioned if these communities face any atrocities, stern motion needs to be taken in opposition to the responsible.

The social gathering determined to recognise the significance of empowering the youth and famous the shortage of consideration to the query of voluntary inhabitants management. It determined to make it a key ingredient of the social gathering 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 determined to accord “the highest priority to the revival and renewal of the party” in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Tamil Nadu and accepted a proposal to determine a Congress Election Authority composed of eminent, neutral, and extremely revered senior leaders to make sure free and honest elections “at all levels of the party”.

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

Over to Shimla

The Pachmarhi conclave didn’t revive the social gathering. Its electoral efficiency worsened within the 1999 Lok Sabha elections and the social gathering 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 revolt in opposition to Gandhi. It ended with their exit. In 2000, senior chief Jitendra Prasada challenged Gandhi when she stood for re-election for the put up of Congress president.

By the time, the Shimla conclave befell in July 2003 — barely a 12 months earlier than the 2004 normal elections — the Congress had been out of energy on the Centre for seven years, virtually like how it’s now. But the stark distinction between then and now’s that the Congress on the time had 15 chief ministers whereas now it guidelines solely two states.

At the “Shimla Shivir”, the social gathering considerably adopted a nuanced stand on coalition politics and known as for the unity of secular forces. This indicated its openness to sharing energy on the Centre. More importantly, the social gathering put ahead an alternate mannequin of rights-based governance, promising to enact a nationwide rural employment assure act, guarantee meals and diet safety for everybody at extra reasonably priced costs, and introduce social insurance coverage and different schemes for the safety and welfare of all employees, significantly for these within the unorganised sector. The social gathering additionally promised to speed up the implementation of land reforms; launch programmes for the financial development, social empowerment, political illustration, and authorized equality of Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, and minorities; and begin a purposeful dialogue with non-public industries on how India’s social range may replicate within the non-public sector by alternative ways akin to reservations and monetary incentives.

In Jaipur, earlier than the decline

By the time, the Congress discovered itself on the Jaipur “Chintan Shivir” in January 2013, a 12 months forward of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, it was a Rahul Gandhi present. The social gathering was in energy on the time, in contrast to the earlier two conclaves. It was in Jaipur that Rahul, then an AICC normal secretary, first termed energy a “poison”. He has expressed the sentiment in varied different methods since then.

At the conclave, Rahul was elevated as Congress vice chairman with a lot fanfare. But, with the Anna Hazare motion at its peak, the central message in Jaipur was directed extra on the Manmohan Singh authorities that was buffeted by corruption prices.

With the social gathering on the brink of face the Lok Sabha elections the next 12 months, 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 varied initiatives of the UPA authorities, together with rights-based laws such because the Right to Information Act, the Right to Education Act, the MGNREGA, the Forest Rights Act and those that had been on the anvil — the Land Acquisition Act and a meals safety legislation.

But organisational issues that hampered the social gathering then exist even now. And a number of the cures additionally stay the identical. For occasion, the Jaipur declaration mentioned the management on the block and district ranges ought to emerge from elected members of panchayats and nagar palikas, with vital illustration for SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities, and girls. The social gathering remains to be having discussions concerning the illustration of those teams.

The Congress’s communication 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 isn’t in energy, the declaration mentioned the social gathering would draw up a listing of present and regionally related points and conduct aggressive demonstrations and agitations persistently. The Congress mentioned it might make sure that it presents itself as a reputable various 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 social gathering declared however there has not been a lot headway on the matter.

Even small issues that had been talked about within the Jaipur declaration haven’t been absolutely carried out. The suggestion 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 might be mentioned in Udaipur.





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