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Family rejuvinates Congress again

The three-day chintan shivir (introspection camp) of the Congress party concluded in Jaipur on Sunday and even the sworn critics of India’s oldest political party would concede that it was successful on at least one count – ability to reiterate and retain cohesiveness of leadership. Whether the congregation of Congress leaders, young and old, powerful and powerless, was able to give the party a new direction would remain a matter of debate but there’s no denying the fact that the Nehru-Gandhi family continues to mesmerise the nation’s not only the oldest, but also the largest, political outfit. The Indian National Congress, despite the shrinking in its influence over the years, remains the only political party with an organisational presence in every state and union territory of the country.

It’s no small achievement that the prime minister, his ministerial colleagues, powerful satraps like the chief ministers of the states where the Congress is in power, their cabinet colleagues, members of parliament, members of state legislature and other influential party leaders rub shoulders for three days with just not the All India Congress Committee (AICC) delegates but also representatives of the party’s front organisation especially the Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India (NSUI). Such big leaders deciding to work in near anonymity for three days, whether in the awe or for the love of the Nehru-Gandhi clan, vouches for the control the family enjoys over the party, much resented by their political rivals and detractors. The second count where the conclave certainly looks to have succeeded is in rejuvenating its cadres. Under severe attack from the Opposition and also a section of the civil society for the past two years, having to repeatedly fend off charges of corruption and mal-governance, the Congress leadership decided to take an offensive stance on the matter. Be it Congress president Sonia Gandhi, newly anointed vice-president Rahul Gandhi or prime minister Manmohan Singh, all made it a point to assert that they were answerable to the people for their shortcomings and not their political adversaries.

This spirit was also surmised in the text of the 13-page, 56 point Jaipur declaration, which would henceforth form the cornerstone of party’s programmes and policies in future.
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