Congress Feels the Shivers at Udaipur Shivir But Keeps Gandhis Snug on Road to 2024

The ‘Chintan Shivir’ of the Congress began on a sombre and critical note on Friday in Udaipur — the party is losing the race when it comes to being a chosen alternative for 2024, especially with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) flexing their muscles in states where the Grand Old Party is in a direct contest with the BJP.

The writing on the wall is clear — Congress needs a desperate win but it seems to have run out ideas. This was borne out by the fact that even in his absence, Prashant Kishor looms large. Many of the points put forward by the election strategist in his mammoth power-point presentation to the party during their negotiations have been accommodated in the ‘Chintan Shivir’ and there will be ‘manthan’ over it.

However, a few important announcements have already been made, which the Congress hopes will change its course for the better.

First, an acknowledgment that Congress cannot go it alone anymore. Hence, party leader Ajay Maken made it clear that they are looking at strategic alliance with parties who “believe in the Constitution and democracy”. In fact, PK — as Prashant Kishor is referred to — had suggested to the Gandhis that in states like Bengal, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu, the Congress must look for allies.

Ironically, just before the ‘shivir’ began, Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole accused its ally NCP of acting as the “big brother”.

The dilemma for Congress is to remain in the race and reckoning, yet accept the need to ally. Strangely, many of the allies it looks at are also its fiercest opponent — like the TMC — and reconciling this could be an issue.

Two more important decisions have been mulled over. One is ‘One Family, One Ticket’ in an attempt to blunt the dynastic charge on the Congress. However, here lay a problem as the rule meant only one Gandhi could contest. But the party has found a way out. Maken said: “We can make an exception in those cases where one member of the family has worked for the party for at least five years.” This could give relief to Priyanka Vadra, who has been general secretary in-charge of UP and campaigned for the party even as a non-member.

Besides this, it has been decided that no one can hold a post in the party for more than five years and there will be a performance assessment mechanism to evaluate the performance of those who had done well but were not rewarded and those against whom there are complaints.

To beat the youth votes swinging in favour of the BJP, the Congress says at least 50 per cent appointments at every level will be for those below 50 years of age.

The ‘shivir’ will clearly show Sonia Gandhi as in-charge as Rahul Gandhi waits in the wings. But, at the same time, it’s also an assembly of a desperate party which needs that one win to keep it alive and in the race.

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