Under Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's keen eye, the Congress plans to induct and train 15,000 volunteers, drawing them from every village block, in the next seven months to build a young leadership with strong organisational skills.
The Seva Dal, a frontal body of the Congress working at the grassroots, will select and train two youths from each of the nearly 7,500 village blocks in the country to turn them into members who are steeped in the "core" values of the party.
Seva Dal chief organiser Mahendra Joshi said, the selected volunteers would be aged between 18 and 35 years. "They will be trained in leadership, personality development and organisational and communication skills. They will be trainers of the future who will also expand the party's base," Joshi said in an interview.
He said, the volunteers would be briefed on the Congress's "core values of socialism and secularism" apart from the party's struggle against communal, caste and linguistic issues. The volunteers will also be briefed about the history of the freedom struggle and the Congress role in building the country after independence.
Joshi said, senior party leaders and experts would address the young volunteers during the week-long training camps to be held in different parts of the country.
Though the Seva Dal organises training camps for its volunteers, this is the first time a camp is being held for youth from all blocks of the country.
The membership of the Seva Dal is estimated to be in lakhs, but its leaders are not yet willing to put down a number.
Joshi said, the membership figure was being ascertained afresh, but around 800,000 of its current volunteers have attended national training camps.
Joshi said, Seva Dal workers sometimes face hurdles in their task of managing the meetings of party leaders in opposition-ruled states. The aim of training youth volunteers was to equip them to tackle such situations.
The minimum qualification for selection as a volunteer has been prescribed as matriculation considering that youth, both men and women, will predominantly belong to rural areas. Joshi, however, said they would try to keep the minimum benchmark at 10+2 as far as possible.
Unlike the talent search of the Youth Congress, the Seva Dal selection process will not involve interviews with candidates and would be based on the assessment of an individual by the state leadership. Joshi said, there will be filters in place to see that the most deserving volunteers are chosen.
With the Seva Dal treading the path taken by Rahul Gandhi to develop young leadership, demands have been raised in the party to give him a more direct role in relation to the organisation.
Joshi said, the Seva Dal intends to unveil its young trained volunteers this year on Nov 14, the birth anniversary of former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru was the first chairperson of the Seva Dal, which was formed in 1923.
Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose and Sarojini Naidu were among the leaders who served as chairpersons of the Seva Dal before independence. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is now its chairperson.