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Congress lines up coronation session

Sonia Gandhi and LK Advani at the cremation of former Prime Minister IK Gujral at Smriti Sthal in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Dec. 1: The Congress today announced a two-day chintan shivir (brainstorming session) on January 18 and 19 in Jaipur where Rahul Gandhi’s ascendance will be formally ratified.

A meeting of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) will follow the next day,

Although the plan to hold the brainstorming session “soon” had been revealed by Sonia Gandhi at a plenary in December 2010, this is the first time an AICC meeting has been tagged on.

No indication came from the party but the special purpose could be Rahul’s formal appointment as the party’s No. 2.

AICC meetings have a specific framework and objective: resolutions on politics, economy and foreign affairs are discussed and adopted, and key decisions taken by the Congress Working Committee are ratified by this supreme panel attended by all delegates.

Brainstorming sessions are not sanctified by the party constitution and contemporary issues and future challenges are debated behind closed doors to explore the need for course correction or reviewing policies.

The leadership had a few days ago written to all state units to complete constitutional formalities, such as mandatory meetings of PCC delegates, by December 31. The letter, written to all PCC presidents by AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, indicated a sense of urgency as the transition phase, from the Sonia era to that of Rahul, is coming to an end.

The pending AICC shuffle may also take place after these events as Rahul would like to pick his own team.

Sections in the party suggested that Rahul should be formally declared No. 2 on December 28, the Congress foundation day. But others felt that calling the AICC meeting to ratify the conclusions — giving the reins to Rahul could be one — that emerge at the brainstorming session would be better than a unilateral announcement by the leadership.

Rahul has already started working as the No. 2, abandoning his formal assignment as general secretary long ago.

Unlike normal AICC meetings, there won’t be separate subject-wise resolutions this time and the discussions will revolve around the conclusions at the chintan shivir. While the chintan shivir will have a special list of about 300 participants, the AICC meeting will be attended by all 1,200 members.

The committees and subjects to be discussed at the chintan shivir will be decided in the next few days.

The party’s last chintan shivir, where Sonia Gandhi’s leadership was projected in a big way and the principle of constituting an alternative coalition (UPA) to challenge the ruling BJP-led NDA was accepted, took place in Shimla in 2003.

Soon after Sonia took over the Congress in 1998, a chintan shivir was held in Panchmarhi in Madhya Pradesh. Indira Gandhi, too, had a similar session in Narora in 1974.

The party usually creates different categories to decide the guest list at such sessions. Cabinet ministers are invited along with the Prime Minister while general secretaries, senior leaders, chief ministers, state unit presidents, MPs and some younger leaders from across the country are picked for the review of policies, programmes and the nature of future challenges.

As the latest session is being held ahead of the general election in 2014, electoral strategies may dominate the discourse.

Senior leaders expect maximum emphasis on the government’s welfare schemes and ways to exploit them at the hustings.

Efforts will be made to evolve strategy to counter the threats posed by new outfits and individuals like Anna Hazare, Ramdev and Arvind Kejriwal.

The government representatives will also try to explain to the party leadership that economic reforms and financial prudence are essential ingredients of good governance and populism alone cannot take the country forward.


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