Congress Chintan Shivir: Age limit to contest polls, ‘one family, one ticket’ rule, and all that’s up for discussion

The Congress is holding a key strategy meet in Udaipur to revamp the party ahead of the 2024 general elections. It’s contemplating an age ceiling for leaders to contest elections and a Rajya Sabha term limit among other ‘big’ changes

FP Explainers May 13, 2022 14:10:29 IST
Congress Chintan Shivir: Age limit to contest polls, ‘one family, one ticket’ rule, and all that’s up for discussion

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at the Chintan Shivir in Udaipur on Friday. Image Courtesy: @INCIndia/Twitter

As the three-day Chintan Shivir, the brain-storming session of the Congress, begins in Rajasthan’s Udaipur today, the party is expected to undergo some big changes. The goal is set – to revive the fortunes of the grand old party after the massive five-state loss in recent state Assembly elections and be better prepared to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2024 general election.

Congress leader Ajay Maken said on Friday, “We are going to make some big changes in our organisational functioning.” The “Udaipur Declaration” would be adopted after talks on six main subjects during the conclave aimed at revamping the party.

We take a look at what are the likely changes Congress plans to introduce and what’s up for discussion at the Chintan Shivir.

Congress Chintan Shivir Age limit to contest polls one family one ticket rule and all thats up for discussion

Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi arrives uin Udaipur for the Chintan Shivir. Image Courtesy: @INCIndia/Twitter

Age limit

The party is reportedly debating an age limit to contest elections or hold positions in the organisation at the meeting.

“I can tell you there is certainly a thinking in this direction… We are seriously thinking, but I cannot say now how it will come up,” one senior Congress leader, who is playing a key role in the deliberations, told The Indian Express.

The Congress is also likely to focus on young leaders – those below 50 – and reserve at least half of the internal positions for them.

There are more than 400 delegates invited to the strategy meet and 50 per cent of them are below the age of 40.

“So 50 per cent being under 40 tells you something… I think it shows the mindset behind the working of Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi [towards youth leadership],” Sachin Pilot, the 44-year-old former deputy chief minister of Rajasthan and the ex-Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president told The Indian Express.

“The party needs to represent the youth since 60 per cent of India’s population is below 40 years. This has to reflect in all our party units and posts we hold too,” Manick Tagore, general secretary looking after Telangana, told NDTV.

However, the party has several senior leaders holding positions in the organisation and it is unlikely that they will be asked to step down.

The BJP has set an age limit of 75 years for holding posts in the party and for running elections.

Term limit for Rajya Sabha

The party is also mulling a term limit for Rajya Sabha members. Sources told The Indian Express that the proposal still has to be finalised. It is unclear if the terms of Rajya Sabha will be restricted to two or three.

‘One family, one ticket’

Even before the Shivir, there was much speculation about the party bringing back the one-family-one-ticket rule. This was something Congress implemented in the Punjab and Uttarakhand polls with mixed results.

However, the question arises if one family member will be given a ticket what will happen to the Gandhi family? Will only Rahul Gandhi contest the election?

Party insiders said that the norm might not apply to the Gandhis. “Well, it could also mean one Gandhi can go to the Rajya Sabha. Chances are that there could be an exception made for the Gandhis,” a leader had told CNN-News18 in the run-up to the big session.

The rule was among the proposals discussed at the Congress Working Committee meeting held earlier in the week.

Maken said that along with the ‘one year, one ticket’ rule the party was considering conditions, wherein for any relative who wanted a ticket, at least five years of prior work of a family member would be required. He said a person would also require to undergo a “cooling-off period” after working at a post for five years.

Congress Chintan Shivir Age limit to contest polls one family one ticket rule and all thats up for discussion

Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on their way to the Chintan Shivir. Image courtesy: @INCIndia/Twitter

50 per cent reservation for SC, ST, OBC, minorities

Leaders of the Other Backward Class, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities are pondering over demanding 50 per cent reservation in the party during the Chintan Shivir.

Six committees were formed for the camp, one of which is social justice and empowerment headed by Salman Khurshid.

Leaders, associated with this campaign, believe that even if there is opposition within the party to this proposal, the demand will be kept loudly and advocated for its approval. A draft was reportedly submitted to Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi ahead of the Udaipur conclave.

Revival of the parliamentary board

The revival of the parliamentary board mechanism to make the decision-making process collective is on the agenda of the Shivir. This is also a key demand of the G-23, a dissident group of leaders who have been demanding sweeping changes in the party.

The Congress will also discuss a possible alignment of all opposition parties to take on the BJP in the 2024 elections and counter “the politics of hatred”.

Focus on unemployment, inflation, farmers

At the Shivir, the Congress delegates are expected to discuss unemployment and inflation, which has reached an eight-year-high in the country. It will also hold discussions over communal polarisation, farmers’ issues, Jammu and Kashmir and the situation in the northeastern states, reports ANI.

“Six groups have been formed for Chintan Shivir. Every group will have 60 to 70 people. No paper discussion will take place,” sources told ANI.

The agriculture committee will discuss the legalisation of MSP, loan waiver, and the wheat price issue.

Elections, the final goal

The end goal, of course, is revamping the party that has not had much electoral success. A separate election wing for managing and coordinating election campaigns, headed by a general secretary, will be considered along with a training institute for party leaders and workers, according to a report in NDTV.

Sonia Gandhi is expected to set the tone for the session. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra are attending the meeting.

Rahul Gandhi arrived at Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh Railway station to a warm welcome at 5 am. He was greeted by party workers, as slogans of “Rahul aap sangharsh karo, hum tumhare sath hai” and “Congress party zindabad” were raised.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that the session was being held at a time when the country was facing the challenge of polarisation. Politics of hatred and division is being played out in the country by the BJP and there is a need to find answers on how to tackle them, he said.

“There is a need to bring about organisational changes. At a time when the country is facing multiple challenges, it is natural that the Congress will discharge its responsibilities toward the people and articulate their concerns. That is why we are holding the Nav Sankalp Shivir," he told reporters.

With inputs from agencies

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