Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has batted for young leaders’ inclusion in the party’s highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), and believes half of its members must be elected following the AICC Constitution. His remarks come days ahead of the crucial Congress plenary session.
In an interview to news agency PTI, Chidambaram said on Monday (February 20) that an objective analysis of the political situation will lead to the conclusion that the Congress has to be the “pole” around which Opposition unity in the 2024 Lok Sabha election can be built.
Asked whether he believes CWC elections were essential, Chidambaram said, “My personal view is that one-half of the CWC should be elected as per the Constitution of the party. However, I learn there are issues about the strength of the electoral college that will elect the CWC. These issues must be resolved by the election commission of the party.”
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On whether he would contest if the CWC polls took place or he was expecting a nomination to the party body, he said, “I have no expectations or personal ambitions. I think younger members must be elected and nominated to the CWC.”
“Party should reflect diversity”
The party organs should also reflect the diversity of the country and the party, added Chidambaram, who is currently a member of the steering committee that was set up by party chief Mallikarjun Kharge to function till the time a CWC is elected.
Asked how far the CWC polls would be free, with the AICC delegates picked by the leadership, the senior Congress leader said he did not agree with the observation that the electoral college was “picked” by the current leadership.
“The state leadership finalised the list of PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) members of each state. Each PCC also recommended the slate of AICC delegates. I believe that the AICC leadership took into account the recommendations and finalised the list of members of the AICC,” he said.
It was a consultative and collective effort, he asserted, adding that if there are any shortcomings, those are also a shared and collective responsibility.
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Congress general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal has said the party’s steering committee would meet in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur on the first day of the session, on February 24, and decide whether elections would be held to the CWC.
According to the party Constitution, the CWC shall consist of the Congress president, the Leader of the Congress Party in Parliament, and 23 other members of whom 12 will be elected by the AICC, according to rules prescribed by the CWC. The president will appoint the rest.
On Raipur plenary session
Talking about the upcoming Raipur plenary session, Chidambaram noted that it is being held when the Lok Sabha elections are due in about 14 months, and said that it is widely expected that the AICC will issue a clarion call that will convince the people on why it is imperative to have a change of government at the national level.
“We must also produce a document that will address the aspirations of the people for a peaceful, prosperous and equitable country,” he stressed.
Asked if the Congress has to be the fulcrum of any Opposition alliance to take on the BJP in 2024 elections, Chidambaram said there is a growing realisation that the Opposition parties must forge a united front to take on the BJP.
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Each party has its own strength and brings to the table a certain value, he noted.
There is also an acknowledgement that barring the Congress, all other Opposition parties are single-state parties, he said.
“I think an objective analysis of the political situation will lead to the conclusion that the Congress has to be the pole around which Opposition unity in the Lok Sabha election can be built. All parties, including the Congress, must approach the task with a spirit of give-and-take and of humility,” Chidambaram asserted.
Opposition unity is key
On the current difficulties in forging Opposition unity, he said each party is entitled to protect its interests in an election to the state legislature.
“We are concerned about Opposition unity in an election to the Lok Sabha. Each party must discard its state-level lens and wear an all-India lens. I hope the Congress leaders, as well as leaders like Mr Sharad Pawar, Mr Nitish Kumar, Mr Sitaram Yechury, and Mr (MK) Stalin, can impress upon all parties to approach the election to the Lok Sabha with a new perspective,” he told PTI.
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Chidambaram also said the Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir Bharat Jodo Yatra has undoubtedly established Rahul Gandhi as a leader with grit, determination, and perseverance, and it has also awakened the people to recognise that the country is faced with huge problems, economic and social.
It has challenged the hegemony that the BJP has sought to acquire through various means, Chidambaram said, adding that he does not think that the Yatra was intended to reap narrow electoral gains.
Focus on economic situation
Chidambaram, who is chairing the party’s sub-group on economic affairs for the plenary session, said the starting point for the panel will be the current world economic situation and the current Indian economic situation.
The Congress strongly disagrees with the government’s glowing and self-serving assessment of the economic situation, he said.
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“We will draw extensively from the conclusions arrived at the Udaipur Conclave. Inputs have been obtained from all the members of the sub-committee. I have requested the convener of the sub-committee, Dr Gourav Vallabh, to make a draft of the resolution,” Chidambaram said.
The 85th plenary session of the party will be held in Raipur in Chhattisgarh from February 24 to 26.
(With agency inputs)