New Delhi, Oct. 4: The manner in which Rahul Gandhi blocked the ordinance on convicted lawmakers may be seen as an indication of his resolve to reform the political system, through radical measures if necessary.
The Congress vice-president has been coming up with ideas that have caused intense churning and even some unease in his party.
Sources said Rahul had recently proposed that no one should be nominated to the Rajya Sabha for more than two terms. He had also suggested restrictions on how many times one person can be given Lok Sabha or Assembly tickets.
Further, he wants the tenures of party officials like state and district presidents restricted to two terms of not more than three years each, the sources added.
Rahul apparently believes these steps are needed to democratise the party organisation.
The final decision has not been taken on these subjects but the leadership has more or less agreed not to offer more than two consecutive Rajya Sabha terms to an individual, the sources said.
After an upper House member completes two terms, they will be asked to either contest a Lok Sabha seat or work for the party organisation, no matter how important the member’s role is in Parliament or the government.
Many Congress leaders have served four, five or even six Rajya Sabha terms, each lasting six years. Examples include veterans such as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, A.K. Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel and Oscar Fernandes.
There has been no agreement on restricting Lok Sabha and Assembly terms so far. Sources said Rahul doesn’t like elected members laying claim to party tickets on the ground that they had been MLAs or MPs for several terms, and would prefer to give chances to new faces.
Rahul’s “reforms push” isn’t limited to electoral politics: he wants greater focus on gram panchayats, zilla parishads and civic bodies as he considers them the “new power centres” in the country, sources said.
At party meetings, he has been arguing against “AICC and PCC-centric” politics and seeking more importance for block and district units. He believes that the days of the “politics of charisma” are over and that grassroots networking is now more crucial than ever.
Sources said Rahul realises that local bodies now receive huge funds and that many regional parties have grown rapidly riding on the grassroots connectivity that pro-active local bodies offer.
Rahul believes that para-dropping national leaders to win votes in villages and towns will not work any more.
Another reason he has been trying to activate the party organisation at the grassroots is that the UPA government has not been receiving credit for the welfare schemes it has introduced over the past decade.
At recent meetings, Rahul has often said that “winning elections” is not his motto and that he wants better systems and a better political culture, both in the Congress and the country.
There has been some criticism of this approach from party lobbies that feel Rahul has failed to appreciate the difference between short-term strategy and long-term perspective.
However, the party vice-president believes that these changes alone can revitalise the Congress and help it expand.
At a recent meeting, amid the tussle over the ordinance that offered a breather to convicted lawmakers, Rahul is believed to have said: “If our own party is committing wrongs, we cannot criticise others. People won’t trust us.”
He added: “We have to reform ourselves, to rededicate ourselves to work for the people. Those who vote for us expect us to deliver. Otherwise, they will give us one chance, two chances and then turn against us.”