Congress to appoint coordinators to rebuild cadre; outreach role was originally cut out for Seva Dal workers

  • The Congress has decided to have 'coordinators' in a bid to reorganise and strengthen the party at the grassroots.

  • The role and function of the 'coordinator' would be to hold meetings with party workers, organise training programmes, propagate the party ideology and views on a range of issues.

  • Before independence, it was the Seva Dal workers who were tasked with the responsibility of connecting with Congress workers at the grassroot level.

In a bid to reorganise and strengthen the party at the grassroots, the Congress has finally decided to have ‘preraks’ (motivators), but the name has been changed to ‘coordinators’. But what happened to the Congress’ original frontal organisation, Seva Dal, that was created more than nine decades ago to function at the grassroot level?

The glaring similarity between the terms ‘prerak’ and ‘pracharak’ of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) compelled Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi to reject ‘prerak’ and replace it with the term ‘coordinator’, after several party leaders opposed the new coinage.

The role and function of the ‘coordinator’ would be to hold meetings with party workers, organise training programmes, propagate the party ideology and views on a range of issues.

 Congress to appoint coordinators to rebuild cadre; outreach role was originally cut out for Seva Dal workers

File image of Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi. PTI

There’s nothing unique in this new system of appointing coordinators, as this model has already been in place in the Congress much before India gained Independence.

It was the Seva Dal workers, who were tasked with the responsibility of connecting with party workers at the grassroot level and carry out the same functions which have now been assigned to coordinators. So, why is it stuffing old wine in a new bottle?

Over the decades, the Seva Dal has virtually been rendered redundant. Instead of performing the role they were originally cut out for, the Seva Dal workers in white uniform donning white topi are now found at events to celebrate Republic Day, Independence Day and Congress foundation day. Apart from this, they also engage themselves in working for the Congress president during his or her visit at AICC headquarters.

“The original role and responsibility of Seva Dal is now missing. We had several meetings for the revival of Seva Dal, but nothing much could be achieved. Earlier, this organisation had played an important role both in the pre-Independence and post-Independence period, but now it just another frontal organisation of Congress,” a Seva Dal worker, who has been with the organisation for 38 years, told Firstpost on condition of anonymity.

Difference between Seva Dal worker and RSS pracharak

Seva Dal was founded in 1924. After Jawaharlal Nehru’s regime, the role and function of Seva Dal gradually took a back seat. By the time Indira Gandhi became the prime minister, this organisation became redundant. However, during her tenure, the workers were visible in various party functions, but in subsequent years, the organisation’s identity virtually went into oblivion.

The RSS was founded a year after Seva Dal came into existence. It is often said that the Seva Dal served as an inspiration for the forming of RSS.

While the Congress didn’t nurture Seva Dal, and over the decades, it turned out to be just another body of the AICC, the RSS got strengthened into a robust organisation at the grassroots.

Right from its inception, Seva Dal workers were meant to serve its parent body — the Congress — as a frontal organization, whereas RSS pracharaks basically work towards propagation of Sangh Parivar’s ideology. Over the years, the RSS and its affiliates have acted as a backbone for the BJP in connecting with the masses by strengthening the party's reach at the grassroots level.

While, the credit of the victory of the BJP across the country is attributed to the RSS, the electoral debacle of the Congress has been due to losing of the grassroots connectivity.

Will Congress ‘coordinators’ be able to bring change?

After becoming Congress president, Rahul Gandhi had emphasised on the importance of revival of Seva Dal. It was discussed in one of the Congress Working Committee meetings that the Seva Dal would be rejuvenated, but in practice nothing happened.

Except giving statements, Congress virtually made no concrete effort to strengthen the organisation.

Now, with Sonia back in the saddle as party president, this new system of coordinators has been introduced. The Congress hopes to rebuild cadre and support within the party with the help of these coordinators.

But, given the example we have of the decline of Seva Dal and no efforts done to revive the same, the question is: would coordinators be able to strengthen Congress, especially, when other factors like factionalism, infighting and presence of various power groups are already having a cascading effect on the party both at the central and state levels?

Updated Date: Sep 14, 2019 00:08:10 IST