In the futuristic planning processes currently unfolding in the Congress, politics does not seem to concern the now and the present.
Barring some concessions to the election season, such as the alliance in the process of being stitched up with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar, the top leadership’s diffidence has sent despondent signals down the line in the run up to the polls, where the principal opposition party has mounted an all-cylinders-blazing campaign.
Party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s sincerity in effecting “radical, long-term” structural changes is matched only by the stoicism with which the old guard is maintaining status quo.
In a meeting with representatives of the SC/ST/OBC communities on December 13, Rahul had declared: “Congress cannot be functioning in the same manner. Processes need to be blown apart and we need to transform the way the Congress has been functioning. I know people dislike me for it but I don’t care.”
Contrast this claim with the most critical structure in an election year i.e. the screening committee for candidate selection, which has shown no signs of restructuring.
The screening committee of the Congress still includes the AICC general secretary in charge of a particular state, an observer from the AICC, the president of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) and leader of the Congress Legislature Party.
And while suggestions to the effect of fielding 50 per cent of the Lok Sabha candidates below the age of 35 years had been floated at an AICC meeting on January 17, the screening committees have so far received no broad directions for candidate selection.
Team Rahul Gandhi wants to ‘democratise’ the candidate selection and the screening committees will soon get ‘guidelines’ on the process.
Sources in the Rahul camp claim the age-old system of leaders of various camps recommending names for party tickets will be stopped.
But the reality is that, as opposed to Rahul pitching for younger candidates, the party fielded octogenarian Motilal Vohra and septuagenarians Murli Deora and Viplove Thakur for the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections.
“We do not expect many seats. We would be happy if at least 10 per cent seats were given to Congress workers who are less than 40,” said a Youth Congress functionary.
At the same time, the urgency and hunger for victory are replaced by various experiments to overhaul the organisation.
While the BJP has closed ranks and announced “winnability” as the only criterion for candidate selection in every seat, Rahul has announced that in at least 15 Lok Sabha seats across the country, candidates will be decided through a referendum.