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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Congress talks reforms, but goes all coy on age-ceiling proposal

From a Compact Task Force to drive internal reforms to the one-family-one-ticket rule, the Congress announced a string of organisational reform measures.

Written by Manoj C G | Udaipur |
Updated: May 15, 2022 11:37:08 pm
Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi addresses party leaders during the party's 'Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir', in Udaipur. (PTI Photo)

AT THE end of the three-day chintan shivir here, the Congress on Sunday announced a raft of organisational reform measures to bring in new and young faces to leadership levels at all levels. Buried in the Udaipur declaration adopted by the shivir was a suggestion by the youth panel that a “retirement age” should be fixed for all “elected posts” and in Parliament, assemblies and legislative councils.

All the other proposals which the party had been talking about over the past three days – one family, one ticket rule with a caveat; one person, one post; 50 per cent representation for those below 50 years of age at all levels, including the CWC and five-year term limit for those holding positions at all levels – were also announced by the party.

Party president Sonia Gandhi announced that a “Compact Task Force” will be set up to drive the process of internal reforms “that are essential and that have been discussed in different groups over the last three days”.

“These reforms with a focus on the 2024 Lok Sabha polls will cover all aspects of the organisation, including structure, rules for appointments to party posts, communications and publicity, outreach, finances and election management. The composition of the task force will be notified in the next two-three days,” she said.

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Besides, Sonia said she has decided to set up an “advisory group” drawn from the CWC that would meet regularly to discuss and deliberate upon political issues and challenges before the party.

The BJP has a Margdarshak Mandal mechanism where it has parked some of its seniors.

Sonia said the new group will not be a collective decision-making body “but will help me get the benefit of the vast experience of senior colleagues”. Her stress was interesting as the G 23 leaders of the party had been seeking a revival of the parliamentary board mechanism for collective thinking and decision making. The proposal was not accepted by the CWC.

Asked about enforcing an age-ceiling, a veteran leader told The Indian Express “that will also come”. Age ceiling, he said, was suggested in the meeting of the CWC, which approved the declaration “but not announced in deference to the elders sitting there”.

In his speech, Rahul Gandhi mentioned the one family, one ticket rule. He argued it was time to transform the nature of the Congress party.

“Not the nature in terms of its thinking, not the nature in terms of its ideology but the nature in terms of the way we do our work. The 21st century is about communication. And there is one area where our opponents outdo us is in communication. They have much more 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 the people of India, with the youngsters in a new way,” he said.

He said the idea that certain number of positions should be for younger people is a very important idea.

“I am not saying there should be no older people. But I am saying when it comes to PCCs, block Congress committees… when it comes to our leadership we should have a healthy mix of youngsters and seniors. And I think the time has come where we aggressively do this… Where we aggressively put new DCCs, new PCCs….” he said.

Importantly, he said, “We must ensure the idea that one person per family should get a ticket.”
“I know (AICC general secretary in charge of organisation) Venugopal has made a caveat to that but I do think that it is very important that we limit the number of family members that are involved in our organisation. Let them work, let them develop and then let them join the organisation but we must not have a situation where 5 or 6 or 7 members of a family are in the organisation,” he said.

The caveat is that the sons, daughters, and other relatives of Congress leaders who aspire to contest elections should have worked for the party for at least five years. This rule will in effect exempt many of the families.

The other decisions include setting up an in-house mechanism – a public insight department – to conduct surveys to gauge the mood of the people, a separate election management department and an assessment wing to analyse the performance of office-bearers at all levels to reward or punish them were also announced.

Some of the announcements came from old suggestions. The decision to form an intermediary mandal committee between booth and block levels was an age-old suggestion. The decision to set up a national training institute was taken way back in 2003 at the Shimla chintan shivir. The other decisions included setting up of a political affairs committee of senior leaders in all the states and holding of AICC session and similar session in states once a year.

Both Sonia and Rahul stressed on refurbishing the communication apparatus of the Congress. The party has decided to expand and restructure the communication department, joining the social media, data analytics and research departments to make the messaging more effective.

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