Faced with ‘unprecedented’ situation, time for Congress to ‘self-reflect’: Sonia Gandhi

Signalling that the Congress is planning to roll out some drastic changes in its organisational set-up, party president Sonia Gandhi said on Friday that it was time for the party to “self-reflect” as the situation that the party is confronted with is “unprecedented”. Extraordinary situations, she said, call for extraordinary measures.

“Every organisation, not just for being alive but to surge ahead, will have to make changes within it from time to time. There is a strong need for reforms – shift in the strategy, structural reforms and changes in the day-to-day work. In a way that is the most fundamental issue. But I want to stress that our resurrection will happen only through big collective efforts,” she said.

“And that collective attempt cannot be put off and will not be postponed. This shivir is an influential step in that journey,” Gandhi said in her inaugural speech at the three-day Chintan Shivir in Rajasthan’s Udaipur.

She said the time has come to subsume personal aspirations in the interest of the organisation. “The party has given all of us so much. The time has come to repay that debt. There is nothing more important than this,” she said.

Gandhi asked the delegates to speak with an open mind but ensure that the message which emerges from Udaipur should be – strengthening of the organisation, determination and unity. She said the Congress is not unmindful of the recent electoral setbacks. Neither is it oblivious to the arduous struggle that it has to wage. “But we have to do it and emerge victorious,” she said. “The people have expectations from us and we are not unmindful of that.”

Congress President Sonia Gandhi with Rahul Gandhi at the Chintan Shivir in Udaipur on Friday. (Photo: AICC)

Gandhi’s stress on structural reforms and her appeal to the 430-odd leaders to subsume their personal aspirations in the interest of the organisation and repay the party is interesting as the Congress leadership is said to be considering radical ideas to bring new faces into leadership levels.

Among the ideas are imposing an age-ceiling for leaders to hold positions in the organisation at all levels and for contesting elections, besides putting in place a term-limit for Rajya Sabha members, enforcing a “one family, one poll ticket” rule and a cooling-off period of three years for office-bearers at all levels, including AICC general secretaries after a five-year term.

The party is also planning to give 50 per cent representation for those below 50 years of age at all levels, right from the Congress Working Committee.

Her stress on making a shift in strategy and changes in day-to-day work is also interesting. The party is planning to put in place an in-house mechanism – a public insight department – to conduct surveys on a day-to-day basis to gauge the mood of the people and an assessment wing to analyse the performance of office-bearers at all levels to reward or punish them.

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