The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pranab pill for trim, ‘friendly’ Cong

New Delhi, May 20: Congress president Sonia Gandhi is set to initiate sweeping reforms in the party organisation and constitution based on a report prepared by Pranab Mukherjee.

A panel headed by Mukherjee has called for the scrapping of Congress committees at block, city and district levels and recommended that they be replaced with units at polling booths and Assembly and parliamentary constituencies.

The rationale for this change is to make the Congress more “election-friendly” and cut the tendency of district Congress committees being at loggerheads with the candidates contesting polls.

The new structure proposed by the panel is based on the British parliamentary model where a party’s candidates are selected by its local units.

At present, the Congress has a large but virtually defunct party organisation spread over 26 states.

While the Congress has four crore primary members, the party leadership has discovered that a substantial part of the membership is “bogus”. This was evident when Congress candidates in states such as Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh got lesser votes than the listed number of primary members.

Some other reforms under consideration are:

Selection of Assembly and parliamentary candidates at least six months before voting

A mechanism where the party guides key economic and social policies of the government (when the party is in power)

Mandatory meeting of AICC general secretaries twice a month (at present, these meetings are not held regularly)

Doing away with the practice of appointing ministers as in-charge of Congress affairs of states (when the party is in power)

Selection of Congress legislature party leaders and state unit chiefs by a panel of senior leaders (at present, an ad hoc procedure is followed)

Fixed tenure for Youth Congress, Mahila Congress and other departmental heads

No truck with communal forces and need to make conscious efforts to equate majority communalism with minority communalism

An annual brainstorming session on the lines of the Panchmarhi meet held in September 1998.

The panel has also called for smaller state party units. At present, there is no uniformity in their size. Many of them have 200 to 250 office-bearers, making them unwieldy. According to old traditions of the Congress, the units would have 21 members, including the state president.

The panel — of which AICC general secretaries Janardhan Dwivedi and Digvijay Singh are two other important members — is likely to submit its final report by next month.

Apart from the Mukherjee panel’s report, Sonia has received recommendations on several papers marked “confidential” and “for madame’s eyes only” from senior AICC functionaries and party leaders. Almost all of them call for clarity on key agricultural issues, special economic zones and the need to formally draft Rahul Gandhi into the AICC secretariat.

Sources said once Sonia has this report, she would have two documents to act upon. She already has Sam Pitroda’s report on party organisation.

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