congress: Congress Chintan Shivir: Exception clauses kick in to shield ‘Congress family trees’

While the three-day Congress Chintan Shivir started in Udaipur on Friday with the AICC promising major rules for organisational restructure, limiting the hereditary right on the party ticket, promotions of youth at all levels of leadership and cooling off periods for office-bearers after a 5-year stint, simultaneously the leadership and delegates also started pushing for ‘exception clauses’ that would not only protect the dynastic interests of entrenched and widespread ‘Congress family trees’ starting with the Gandhis-Vadra leadership but will also cushion other proposals even as the proposed 50% reservation for the under-50 category will be rolled out across the existing quotas so the accommodation can be done vis a vis other categories, including many seniors.

More debates on these are expected till late hours of Friday as, at the timing of writing, the delegates in six groups were still engaged in closed door discussion.

If the pre-session reports about the draft proposal of the Congress committee on organisation pitching for ‘one-family-one-ticket’ norm created some in-house excitement, it also led to as much ‘raised-brows’ among the powerful army of the entrenched party leaders whose backing to the Gandhi-Vadra leadership is also linked to they too getting a free hand to create own ‘family trees’. Also, ‘one family member’ clause also resulted in many wondering whether the third member of the Gandhi-Vadra family, Priyanka won’t contest polls.

The answer to all this came on Friday in the form of an “exception cluse” that AICC general secretary Ajay Maken rolled out even as he tried make the ‘one-family-one-ticket’ the big-ticket move of the party. “There is complete unanimity on the one family-one ticket proposal. The feeling is if a second member wants a ticket to contest he/she should have worked at least five years in the party organisation. It meant leaders can’t hand over the ticket to a family member who has not worked for the party,” Maken said.

However, what this really meant was that leaders and their son/daughter already in legislatures will have no problem in getting tickets again. Even non-legislators’ sons/daughters can find an easy way out as powerful political families always ensure their chosen heir gets enrolled as party member in some panels mostly from their teens. While no such norms need be expected to be applied on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul, as they are serving and former party chiefs respectively, Vadra has organisation record of exactly five years, from 2017 when she debuted as AICC general secretary. Maken also said the issue of Congress leadership is not the subject of the Shivir discussion as it is linked to organisational polls.

On the opening day, the leaders highlighted the “youth agenda” — that every party committee right up to CWC will have 50% representation for leaders under 50. Some delegates, even while welcoming it, are learnt to have pressed for a pragmatic approach of mutual accommodation. There is a possibility of this 50% youth quota to be rolled across the party’s existing quota for women (33%) and for SC-ST-OBC-minorities (which is expected to go up above the current 20%) so that space is found for accommodating enough “50 plus “leaders as well indispensable “veterans”. Some delegates felt the cooling-off period may be made only from the particular post a leader has been holding.

The Shivir will also come out with a proposal for the party setting up a Public Insight Department to gauge public mood on issues.

Delegates against Congress blindly searching for allies

Many delegates felt the Congress can’t go blindly in search of allies as it has to protect its own electoral space and must keep off from those anti-BJP allies who are plotting to eat up the Congress traditional votes. This meant, resistance from many against any overtures to TMC, AAP, TRS, BJD.

“First, we want to set right our own house. We want to make the Congress people more active and more powerful and then we will go to others…,” said Mallikarjun Kharge.

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