The Congress vice-president has tried to demolish notions of a divide between the young and the old by creating heterogeneous groups for his renewed consultation exercise aimed at seeking suggestions to revive the Congress. Sonia Gandhi is not attending these meetings.
Thursday’s meeting included veterans Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ambika Soni, Jaipal Reddy and Mani Shankar Aiyar, as well as younger leaders like Jairam Ramesh, Sachin Pilot and Meenakshi Natarajan.
Friday’s meeting had a similar mix: veterans Sushil Kumar Shinde, Janardan Dwivedi, Girija Vyas and Amarinder Singh as well as the younger Shashi Tharoor, Ajay Maken, Mukul Wasnik and J.D. Seelam.
Although the purpose of the meetings is to have the widest consultations before finalising the revival plan, party sources are analysing the composition of the groups, arguing that Rahul appeared eager to dispel the impression that he nurtured any antipathy towards the entrenched forces in the party.
“We have to work together, we have to empower all… from panchayat level to MLA to MP,” he told party leaders.
With this exercise, Rahul is also trying to address the charge that he was relying on a few apolitical newcomers, and sidelining important members of his mother’s team.
After the election debacle, the divide between Rahul’s coterie and others became the talking point in Congress circles. The aggression of the pro-Rahul camp and the dejection of the slighted veterans almost threatened to derail the revival plan.
Through this exercise, Rahul has tried to send a positive signal, assuaging the sense of hurt among the veterans. But some leaders feel he will have to show much greater tact and maturity to resolve this problem satisfactorily.
At these meetings, Rahul sought the leaders’ views on restructuring the organisation, internal elections, training of workers and election strategy apart from the reasons for the poll losses.
The majority of leaders were not enthusiastic about his pet idea of internal elections. Some argued against elections to the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision-making body, while others suggested a calibrated approach to ensure that the wrong people did not capture leadership in the states using money and muscle power.
The meetings will continue for some days.
- The Telegraph, Calcutta