Top Congress leaders began their three-day brainstorming conclave in Udaipur to revive the organisation ahead of the upcoming election cycle, with party chief Sonia Gandhi calling for urgent reforms and changes in its day-to-day functioning saying "extraordinary situations demand extraordinary action".
The 'Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir' which opened with Gandhi's remarks is expected to witness major structural reforms including the 'one family, one ticket' formula with exceptions based on high levels of performance in a party role for five years.
The formula will pave the way for leaders like Priyanka Gandhi and Vaibhav Gehlot to contest elections as they have worked in party positions since 2019.
Gandhi also launched a blistering attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him of keeping the country in a state of permanent polarisation, "brutalising" minorities and "threatening" political opponents by misusing institutions.
The Congress president set the tone for the deliberations again reminding leaders that time had come to repay the debt to the organisation, while stressing that the party's revival would only happen with grand collective efforts and those cannot be put off.
Sending out a clear message to Congress ranks, she said the party will have to change its style of functioning with changing times and urged them to keep the organisation above their personal ambitions.
She urged around 450 delegates to deliberate with an open mind but send out a single message of a strong organisation, resolve and unity.
"In one way this (Congress transformation) is the most fundamental issue. Our revival is only possible through collective efforts. Such collective efforts will not be deferred. This 'Shivir' is the start of the journey," Gandhi said.
"The circumstances before our organisation are unprecedented. Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary action. I am fully alert to this. The organisation has to bring changes within itself, not just to stay alive but to move forward. We are in urgent need of improvement and changing strategy," she also said.
Noting that this shivir in this journey is an important step, she noted, "We are not oblivious to the recent failures nor are we oblivious to the struggle we have to undertake to win. We are not unaware of the expectations of the people."
The Congress president asserted that all have gathered to take a collective and individual resolve to bring the party in the same position it once had and play the role that people expected it to play in these "deteriorating circumstances".
Taking on the government, she said, it has become "painfully clear" what Modi and his colleagues really mean by their frequently-used slogan 'maximum governance minimum government'.
"It means keeping the country in a state of permanent polarisation, compelling people to live in a constant state of fear and insecurity. It means viciously targeting, victimising and often brutalising of minorities who are an integral part of our society and equal citizens of our republic," she noted.
"It means using our society's age-old pluralities to divide us and subverting the carefully nurtured idea of unity and diversity. It means threatening and intimidating political opponents, maligning their reputation, jailing them on flimsy pretexts and misusing investigative agencies," Gandhi said.
She said it means eroding the independence and professionalism of all institutions of democracy.
Gandhi also accused the BJP-led government of "wholesale reinvention of history", constant denigration of its leaders, especially Jawaharlal Nehru and the systematic move to distort, deny and destroy their contributions, their achievements and their sacrifices.
"It means glorifying the killers of Mahatma Gandhi," the Congress chief said.
She accused the Centre of "blatant undermining" of the principles the Constitution and its pillars of justice, liberty, equality, fraternity and secularism. Gandhi alleged that the government was turning a blind eye to continued atrocities across the country on weaker sections, especially Dalits, Adivasis and women.
She also charged that the Centre was using fear to make the bureaucracy, corporate India, sections of the civil society and the media fall in line. She said diversionary tactics were being used and questioned the "utter silence" on the part of the "ever so eloquent prime minister when the healing touch is most needed".
Urging leaders to air their views frankly and openly during discussions at the conclave, she said, "I urge you to openly put forward your views, but only one message should go out and that is of a strong organisation, resolve and unity." She said the meet is also an occasion to deliberate on the many challenges ahead of us and bring organisational changes.
It is both 'Chintan' about national issues and meaningful 'atma chintan' (self-introspection) about our party organisation," she said.
Among the proposals on the table include enforcing the 'one family, one ticket' formula granting exemption to only another family member who has been doing "exemplary work" for the party for a period of at least five years.
The other major organisational reforms being considered include establishing mandal committees between booth and block level in the organisation, 50 percent representation to those below 50 years of age in party committees at all levels, fixing the maximum of five years tenure for party positions with a cooling off period of three years, setting up of a 'public insight department' for creating an in house survey mechanism and an assessment wing to gauge the performance of office bearers.
The party is also proposing to promise granting legal guarantee to MSP for farmers, besides granting 50 percent representation to those below 50 years of age and making unemployment a major issue in upcoming elections.
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the party will discuss alliance issues after strengthening its own organisation and unifying its cadres as no partner will come if you don't have any investment .
He said the party will decide on alliances with those parties that subscribe to its ideology and are concerned over the "attack" on democracy and the Constitution and want to save them.
"This is a fight between Indian nationalists v/s pseudo nationalists. Those who stand with the principles of the Indian National Congress represent the Indian way of life and thought that has sustained this civilisation for 3000 years," Kharge said.
Congress leader Ajay Maken, who is a member of the coordination committee on organisation for discussion at the Chintan Shivir, said the meet is being held at a time when the party is faced with a string of electoral defeats and is trying to strengthen itself by initiating organisational overhaul and deciding its strategy to make it future-ready for 2024 general and other state assembly elections.
The conclave also comes amid calls by a section for bringing organisational overhaul and elections at all levels.