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Manifesto consultation challenge for Bengal Congress

Weakened by cash crunch and organisational decline, party finds it tough to conduct the process
Rahul Gandhi has asked the Bengal Congress unit to organise a slew of meetings for drawing up the Congress manifesto for Bengal
Rahul Gandhi has asked the Bengal Congress unit to organise a slew of meetings for drawing up the Congress manifesto for Bengal
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Meghdeep Bhattacharyya   |   Calcutta   |   Published 05.11.18, 08:08 PM

The Congress’s manifesto consultation exercise, an assignment from none other than Rahul Gandhi, has thrown a fresh challenge for the Bengal unit of the party that is grappling with cash crunch and organisational decline.

State Congress leaders were asked to organise a slew of meetings this month for the exercise.

But, sources said, it was recently discovered that Bidhan Bhavan had less than Rs 20,000 left in its coffers. Drastically weakened by defections of legislators and internal strife, the Congress will find it tough to conduct the manifesto consultation process.

“We are trying our best, but it’s also true that we don’t have the organisational might to pull off something like this with ease,” admitted a state leader.

The first meeting as part of the exercise took place on Saturday with Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor and the last one is slated for November 15 with former Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma.

For the manifesto consultation, Rahul has formed a committee of 19 senior leaders for taking feedback on eight topics from experts and civil society members. For instance, while Tharoor is in charge of environment and disaster management, former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram will look into economic and tax policies.

Of the 19 leaders, eight are handling Bengal.

State Congress president Somen Mitra said: “This is a welcome step and a departure from the past. I hope the Congress manifesto will reflect the true aspirations of the people of Bengal.”

But for the Bengal Congress, finding people to organise and participate in the process is a challenge. The high-command has ordered the state unit to find at least 75-100 participants — excluding Congress workers and leaders — for each of the meetings. From finding venues for the meetings to arranging for lunches, logistics to outreach, Bidhan Bhavan has been stretching its means to make the meetings a success.

Besides the consultation sessions, the party has to organise an extended executive committee meeting with 1,046 participants on November 13 and 14. To be presided over by the Congress’s Bengal minder Gaurav Gogoi, the meeting will focus on fund collection, booth-level mass outreach, political programmes and organisational development.

Asked how the state unit was paying for the events, a source said leaders and patrons close to them were taking up the responsibility of funds for now.

“It is challenging, but still we are trying. If we manage to pull off a decent show, it will help us regroup before the Lok Sabha polls,” the source added.

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