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Rahul pushes 'election culture' within Cong

Renu Mittal | January 18, 2010 23:57 IST

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The Rahul Gandhi [Images] agenda seems to be hitting both the Congress party and the government.

Union ministry of external affairs announced on Monday his upcoming meeting with the Malaysian Prime Minister Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, an unprecedented step -- since the MEA never announces the official programme of a mere Member of Parliament, who does not hold a constitutional post, meeting a foreign dignitary.

Along with meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images], United Progressive Alliance [Images] chairperson Sonia Gandhi [Images] and the leader of the opposition, the MEA has announced that Rahul Gandhi will also be meeting the Malaysian PM, who arrives in India [Images] on Tuesday.

This means that Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao [Images] would be, probably, briefing Rahul before the meeting, and also indicates that he is showing interest in foreign affairs. Rahul Gandhi was present during Sonia Gandhi's meeting with the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [Images] recently, but the MEA did not announce his participation then.

This has led to the speculation that in the next round of the Cabinet reshuffle, which is likely to take place only after the budget session of the Parliament gets over in May, Rahul could be invited to become a minister. Though so far he has refused to heed Dr Manmohan Singh's repeated requests to join his council of ministers.

At the same time, Rahul Gandhi will also get his way in terms of eliminating the 'nomination' culture from the parent Congress body, and instead would usher in 'democracy in the party' by ensuring elections are held at all levels and for all posts.

This blueprint is likely to come into force for the next organizational elections in the party, say highly placed sources in the Congress.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi called a meeting on Monday evening with senior party leaders Pranab Mukherjee [Images], A K Antony, Veerappa Moily [Images], Ahmed Patel and Digvijay Singh [Images] to discuss the report and recommendations of the Future Challenges Group, of which Rahul Gandhi is also a member.

The group dealt with intra party reforms, which was chaired by Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily. His 124-page report has recommended wide ranging structural changes in the Congress organisational set up, membership, elections and restructuring of the entire set up, so as to ensure that the party no longer works under the 'nomination culture.'

Sources say that the objective of the exercise, which was concluded last year itself but which was taken up only today by the Congress chief, is to make the parent organisation more in tune with the election culture currently being practiced in the Youth Congress, making it more homogenous.

It is learnt that during the meeting held at 10, Janpath on Monday evening, it was suggested that since the party's organisational elections are already underway, a decision on the Moily report should be deferred till the party's poll exercise is completed, which would be by the end of July.

And with the plenary and the Congress Working Committee elections likely to be completed by October 31, this report is likely to be taken up at that time.

A senior leader said that the Congress president is likely to form a small committee to look into the report in depth, and this would then be put up before the CWC. From there it would be placed before the All India Congress Committee for approval, if the changes suggested are agreed to by the party's leadership, since it would involve changing the party very constitution to some extent.

For some time now, the Congress leadership has been shying away from holding elections in the organisation, so much so that the last time that elections were held in the CWC were during the presidentship of Sitaram Kesri.

Since Sonia Gandhi has taken over the reigns of the Congress president, elections to the highest decision making body, the CWC, have not been held and, instead the entire CWC is now being nominated.

The lack of election in the party has led to many leaders with a support base being sidelined. Instead, sycophants and managers have taken over the Congress to the extent that most of those who are sitting in the AICC today are men and women who have not been able to win an election for most of their political careers, but have managed to survive by networking and being in the right place at the right time.

Under a severe push being given by Rahul Gandhi, there is now pressure to go back to the election culture in the party, and bring those people back at the helm of affairs who enjoy support both within the organisation and at the grass root level.

Image: Rahul Gandhi

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