Rahul Gandhi-led panel to frame Congress’ positions on political and policy issues

NEW DELHI: The Congress Working Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body, has decided to meet once every two months to constantly review the emerging political situation in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and for framing official position and response to issues.

According to Congress leaders, the Tuesday meeting also decided that party vice-president Rahul Gandhi will head a sub-committee of the CWC that will interact with seniors to frame the party’s official and uniform positions on political and policy issues and ensure the entire party speaks in one voice. The panel will also hold discussions with like minded Opposition parties on common issues inside and outside Parliament.

The decision comes at a time when Rahul Gandhi is slated to take over as party president. The growing intervals between CWC meetings — the last was held seven months ago and Tuesday’s meeting was held three months after the Congress debacle in UP and Uttarakhand polls — has been a subject of quiet criticism in the party. The time gap meant Tuesday’s meeting avoided a structured discussion about the party debacle in UP and other states, though party president Sonia Gandhi made a passing reference that UP and Uttarakhand defeats “hold vital lessons.”

The CWC too felt the need for more frequent meeting for reviews of political and internal issues and formulating official positions. Some members felt absence of more frequent CWC meetings and formulation of party’s responses has seen the party failing to highlight — through structured campaign and discourse — certain administrative and political ‘hiccups’ the Union government has faced.

The need for a sub-committee was felt as CWC meet saw some members disapproving various leaders speaking in different voices on an issue. Recently when Punjab chief minister supported the Army’s use of a ‘human shield’ to deal with stone pelters, senior leaders Digvijaya Singh and P Chidambaram disproved such tact saying it violated human rights.

“The party’s position is we have to be sensitive to human rights,” said a CWC member after the meeting. With the CWC ratifying the schedule for completing organisational elections before the EC’s December 31 deadline, the stage is also set for Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as Congress president between September 16 and October 15, as per the schedule for completing the election of party president, along with PCC presidents, PCC executives and AICC members.

Between August 7 and 20, the party will complete booth, mandal and district committee elections. After the election process is complete by October 15, the plenary session of AICC — the venue for the ceremonial felicitation of the new Congress president — will be held to elect CWC members. The last CWC meeting had unanimously passed a resolution urging Gandhi to take over the leadership, which he is keen to do through the organisational poll process.

Some members said the organisational elections should be used for mass mobilisation. Election-bound states will be allowed to maintain organisational status quo, or make unavoidable changes through nomination, so that internal polls don’t affect assembly poll preparations. As per Rahul’s suggestion made during his brief intervention at Tuesday’s meeting, the CWC has okayed a nationwide agitation to highlight ‘growing unemployment’ among youth and ‘failure’ of the NDA government to deliver on BJP’s poll promise of “generating crores of jobs for youth”. The CWC also came out with a critique of the Modi government’s track-record on various fields and handling of J&K.

In her opening speech, Sonia Gandhi called for organisational preparedness for facing the next Lok Sabha polls. “We are not far from the 2019 elections. We must be ready to protect the essence and idea of India…To this end, we must strengthen our organisation”.

In her all-round criticism of the Centre she said: “the Modi government has completed three years in office… Where there was relative calm, as in Kashmir, there is growing confrontation… and fear. Where there was economic potential, there is stagnation. Where there was rich diversity, there is a brazen campaign to strait-jacket the whole country into a regressive and narrow world-view.”