Should the Congress appoint its state and other unit presidents or elect them? How should the party reconnect with people? How can it galvanise its workers? Does its organisational structure and constitution need change?
The party will be brainstorming on these and many other questions in its weeklong brainstorming session that begins in Chandigarh on Thursday. An initiative of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the dialogue sessions are aimed at getting feedback from senior leaders, MLAs, and block-level and grassroots workers. The ideas will be compiled and sent to the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) as it goes into a crucial meeting in April.
AICC general secretaries have the job of holding the sessions at the state level, and Punjab affairs in-charge Shakeel Ahmed will begin the exercise from March 12. On the first day, he’ll collect feedback from state Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar, legislators, district presidents, and former unit presidents.
However, with uncertainty looming over the presidency of the Punjab Congress, most of its MLAs who had openly sought the removal of incumbent Partap Singh Bajwa are uneasy with participating in the discussions; and some are even mulling to give the session a miss. Punjab was reported to be on the list of states where the party was planning a change of guard. In the first week of March, it replaced five of its state chiefs but did not name a successor to Bajwa.
Senior legislator and former minister Lal Singh was frontrunner for the post; and he had even met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. But with the party deferring the announcement, there are now rumours that his chances have been sabotaged by a rival group that has sounded the high command of an old case against him before the Lokpal.
No news is good news for Bajwa, who has the backing of both Shakeel Ahmed and secretary in-charge Harish Chaudhary. Until the high command takes a final call, Ahmed has announced Bajwa as firmly in the saddle. However, the MLAs close to Bajwa’s rival Captain Amarinder Singh, former Punjab CM and party deputy leader in Lok Sabha, may disagree with the high command’s decision to linger on the matter.
“Instead of clearing the air on the leadership issue, the party is facing a credibility crisis. What use is a brainstorming session when the party is avoiding taking a call on the main issue hurting our poll prospects in Punjab,” an MLA said on the condition of anonymity. However, the legislators from the “neutral” camp said no fireworks were expected, as the session has been called at the behest of Rahul as part of a nationwide exercise.