The brain storming session is expected to be a significant one as it can give a new line of vision to the party cadre in the run-up to the next general election, says Renu Mittal
Preparations for the Congress Party's Chintan Shivir -- which will be held in Jaipur on January 18-19 followed by the meeting of the All India Congress Committee on January 20 -- have entered a decisive stage with senior party leaders burning the midnight oil to iron out the creases and finalise last-minute details.
According to sources, the number of invitees to the Chintan Shivir has increased from 319 to 395, as per the latest list drawn up by the AICC.
The party has included 25 Union ministers of state to the list of invitees and 33 AICC secretaries, apart from leaders of legislative councils, the Congress Working Committee's permanent invitees and heads of the various AICC departments and cells.
The original list of 319 invitees included CWC members, Union cabinet ministers, ministers of state with independent charge, Central Election Committee members, AICC general secretaries and states in-charge, frontal organisation heads, four AICC spokesmen, Congress Legislature Party leaders, Pradesh Congress Committee presidents and some special invitees that included senior leaders.
The rationale for including the Union ministers of state and AICC secretaries was that 106 leaders from the Youth Congress and 64 from the National Student's Union of India were also being invited. These leaders are all part of AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi's brigade and their names were finalised by the Youth Congress and the NSUI.
It was felt that if Union ministers of state are left out but Youth Congress leaders are included to deliberate over the future plans of the party, it may send a lopsided signal, both within the party ranks as well as outside.
Congress has pulled out all stops to make the Chintan Shivir a mega show. The party has booked the entire Hotel Clarks Amer for the media and a luxury bus has been booked to ferry the journalists. Nearly 150 journalists will cover the event. The Congress will bear the expenses of their travel and stay in a five-star hotel.
It may be recalled that for the Congress's Samvad Baithak meet in Surajkund, Union ministers of state had not been invited.
According to a senior party leader, the issues taken up at the Surajkund meet were completely different than those on the agenda of the Chintan Shivir.
For the AICC meet on January 20, the list of invitees is over 1,200 since it also includes senior members from states like Bihar and Delhi, where organisational elections have not been held. The old membership continues to rule the roost in the local Congress units and they have been invited.
Most of the sub-groups -- which have been constituted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to prepare position papers that would be the basic reference points for the discussions -- have submitted them to the Congress president.
A series of meetings have been held to discuss these papers, the measures that need to be taken and the logistics of the Chintan Shivir.
The brain storming session is expected to be a significant one as it can give a new line of vision to the party cadre in the run-up to the next general election.
An issue that is bothering a number of leaders and which may find an echo in the discussions is the thrust on ongoing economic reforms by the Manmohan Singh-led government and how the aam admi is getting affected by them. Congress leaders are concerned that the human face of these reforms is neither visible nor is it being highlighted.
According to sources, the sub-group on future challenges, which is headed by Defence Minister A K Antony, has highlighted this aspect in its report.
The Chintan Shivir is expected to discuss it and lay out its position on how a balance can be struck on this and other issues.
The position papers are simply to be used as reference points for various issues. They would be finalised at the conclusion of the brain storming session, after which the final papers would be put before the AICC for its endorsement.