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Rahul reforms off to mixed start

Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, Jan. 24: Rahul Gandhi has introduced some safeguards against nepotism and monopoly and boosters for the lower castes and minorities in the Congress’s power structures, but his radical ideas about strengthening internal democracy and reserving seats for the youth will have to wait.

Senior leaders have ruled out any immediate replication of the Youth Congress or NSUI model within the parent body, saying such a move in electing the working committee or the state unit chiefs at this stage could create complications and disunity.

Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul have laid the strongest emphasis on unity, arguing that no party can defeat a united Congress. But certain measures will be taken to ensure fairness in organisational appointments.

For instance, no one can head district and state units for more than two consecutive three-year terms each. This means a district or state Congress president, however powerful or popular, cannot retain his or her position for more than six years.

If this decision, included in the Jaipur Declaration, is implemented in letter and spirit, it can encourage new leaders to come up at the district and state levels.

A proposal was made at the Jaipur Chintan Shivir to debar district and state presidents from contesting elections, but the majority view was opposed to this.

The idea’s backers argued that the organisational structure was left rudderless in constituencies where the district chief contested elections. The proposal said Congress officials who wanted to contest elections should quit their party post a year in advance.

But this was not accepted as many others advocated flexibility in candidate selection, an exercise often influenced by multiple factors including caste, the identity of the rival candidate, financial clout and winnability.

This is why even the proposal to reserve 30 per cent seats for the youth was shot down.

But even winnability took a backseat when it came to loyalty, keeping in mind the growing resentment in the party against outsiders who receive election tickets within hours or days of joining the Congress.

However, a suggestion to have a three-year cooling-off period for outsiders before they are fielded in elections, too, was rejected as the leadership wanted flexibility in exceptional cases.

But the recent trend of rewarding hordes of outsiders with tickets, as seen in last year’s Uttar Pradesh elections when defectors from the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party were favoured, will be reversed.

Rahul, who had earlier supported this practice, has realised its adverse effects on the morale of party loyalists and the risks of accommodating those who lack any ideological bond with the Congress.

It has been decided that elected members of panchayats and nagarpalikas — particularly women, Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backward Classes and minorities — will be nominated to various organisational positions at the block and district levels.

A mechanism will be devised to absorb outgoing officials of front organisations into the parent body.

The Jaipur Declaration also spoke of a “robust and efficient system” for regularly monitoring and appraising the performance of party functionaries.

Senior leaders who recommend candidates for tickets will have to own responsibility in case of failure.

“Nepotism in the organisation’s structure is a cause of great concern and there is a need to arrest this tendency firmly,” the declaration said, without asking leaders not to nominate their sons or daughters.