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Chintan Shivir diary: Is Rahul part of the high command?

Last updated on: January 18, 2013 20:20 IST

Chintan Shivir diary: Is Rahul part of the high command?

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Renu Mittal in jaipur

Renu Mittal gives us glimpses from the opening ceremony of Congress' Chintan Shivir in Jaipur which saw party general secretary Rahul Gandhi taking part in group deliberations`

Apart from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party president Sonia Gandhi the others seated on the stage at the opening of the party's Chintan Shivir in Jaipur were those involved in the logistics of the Shivir.

Party treasurer Motilal Vora is the chairman and Ambika Soni is the convenor of the committee for the organisation of the shivir. Chairmen of the five sub-groups -- Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Lok Sabha chief whip Girija Vyas, Defence Minister A K Antony, general secretary Digvijaya Singh and Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma -- were also seated on the stage.

Apart from these, Rahul was the only other leader to be present and seated there.

First Soni mentioned it and then Sonia. The fact that this Shivir is different from the earlier two, with Rahul ensuring a good participation by the Youth Congress and the National Student's Union of India. Sonia said that the party wants to hear what the young leaders have to say on various issues.

The Youth Congress and NSUI delegates chose to sit in the back benches, uncomfortable as they looked among a galaxy of chief ministers, Union ministers, Congress Working Committee members, general secretaries and senior leaders.

But all eyes are on this young brigade and how they acquaint themselves and whether they are going to aggressively take on the senior leadership and ask uncomfortable questions or whether they would be overwhelmed by the occasion.

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Image: Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi

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Pitroda in demand

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The Congress has invited some special invitees to the shivir. Prominent among these is the long-haired Sam Pitroda, who was once a favourite of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and who set in motion the various technology missions and who is now being consulted by Rahul on a host of technology related issues.

While not formally in the Congress, Pitroda has been a long term ally of the Gandhi family and the party. These days he is advisor to the prime minister on technology issues and maybe that is why all the ministers of state and new ministers were making a beeline for Pitroda keen to introduce themselves and register their presence.

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Image: Sam Pitroda


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Vayalar speaks his mind

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It must have come as a shock to the prime minister when one of his own senior ministers Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi took Sonia at her word and decided to speak freely and frankly without mincing words.

In the socio-economic sub group meeting this afternoon, which was also being attended by the prime minister, Ravi spoke against the cut in subsidies saying it was affecting the aam admi and affecting the people's budget. He said even countries such as the United States had subsidies so it was unreal for India to do away with them.

Not only that he also spoke against bringing in FDI in specific sectors saying it should be carefully monitored and regulated in infrastructure while in the services sector there should be no FDI as foreign companies were only interested in profit and would not ensure that the weaker sections, the Dalits and others were given employment.

The prime minister would certainly not have been keen to hear such views as he has been aggressively pushing the reforms agenda, despite serious reservations in large sections of the party.

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Image: Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi


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A problem at the grassroots

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Sonia and Rahul spent a considerable amount of time in the organisational strengths sub-group deliberations. One point which was repeatedly brought up by delegates was the manner in which grassroots workers and leaders were increasingly being marginalised by the party and its leadership leading to an alienation of the people from the Congress.

It was pointed out that the elite and those who moved around in the five-star culture were picked up and promoted at the cost of the genuine Congress worker and that was one of the reasons why the party was losing its moorings and its support base in various states.

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Image: Congress president Sonia Gandhi with son Rahul

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When Gehlot goofed

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The organisational capabilities of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot leave a lot to be desired. Despite the bulk of the arrangements being outsourced to an agency, there was mayhem the night before the shivir when journalists coming from New Delhi found a huge shortage of rooms in the hotel where they were to stay.

Many of them had to change three hotels the same night whilst others made their own arrangements in the middle of the night. The issue reached Sonia's political secretary Ahmed Patel in Delhi who called up journalists and later requested State Tourism Minister Bina Kak to ensure hotel rooms for the journos.

The local media was first invited to the chief minister's dinner the same night at the hotel and later cameramen were told they were not welcome. The vegetarian fare served at the dinner also did not go down well with the guests.

The local media was first told they were not being called for the shivir but then later it was decided to call them but then passes were neither ready nor arranged.


Image: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot


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