What to expect from the 85th Congress plenary at Raipur?
All the roads from the airport to the city are packed with hoardings and banners of several senior Congress leaders
All of Raipur has geared up to host the three-day 85th plenary session of Congress which is slated to begin on February 24. It is being considered as a show of strength for the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, ahead of the Assembly elections in November later this year.
All the roads from the airport to the city are packed with hoardings and banners of several senior Congress leaders including president Mallikarjun Kharge, Chhattisgarh incharge Kumari Selja, AICC general secretary KC Venugopal and the Gandhis.
Almost all the Congress top leadership from across the country will be in Raipur to deliberate on the party’s organisational changes and 2024 election strategy. Around 15,000 delegates of the party, 1,338 elected and 487 co-opted AICC members, 9,915 PCC delegates and 3,000 co-opted PCC delegates are expected to join the plenary. District presidents of the party, Bharat Jodo Yatris and office bearers of frontal organisations are also likely to join the plenary sessions.
The Steering Committee meeting, which will be held on February 24, will decide the fate of CWC elections. “We can clearly say about it after the Steering Committee has met and decided on the issue. The party is fully prepared for the CWC elections,” said Jairam Ramesh, the Congress general secretary in charge of communications.
CWC member P Chidambaram has already said that half of the members to the CWC should be elected and more young leaders should be included.
According to the Congress constitution, the party’s highest decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) is supposed to consist of the party president, leader in Parliament, 23 members, of whom 12 will be elected by the AICC and the rest appointed by the party president. The Constitution also states that only elected AICC members can vote in the CWC elections. It was under Sitaram Kesri in August 1997 that the last elections to CWC were held.
In October 2022, Kharge had set up a 47-member Steering Committee, which includes his predecessors Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in place of the CWC. All members and permanent invitees of the last CWC have been retained in the committee except Vivek Bansal.
At the Chintan Shivir held in Udaipur in 2022, the Congress had declared that it would ensure that 50 per cent of the members of the CWC are below the age of 50. Moreover, it pledged to ensure that leadership at all levels would ensure fair representation of Dalits, Adivasis, backward classes, minorities and women.
If the voting occurs, the party said it will ensure adequate representation from SCs, STs, women, OBCs, and minorities. CWC permanent invitee Manickam Tagore had tweeted that 704 AICC delegates were from general category, 381 from OBC, 228 from minority communities, 192 from Scheduled Castes, 143 from Scheduled Tribes, 235 women and 501 members below the age of 50.
Ahead of the plenary session, asserted that the Opposition was united and that Congress needed to be strengthened to ensure effective Opposition unity.
Secondly, the party will ratify the election of Mallikarjun Kharge as the Congress president. Additionally, the party is also set to amend the party constitution to increase the strength of its CWC. This amendment will also provide 50% reservations in the working committee. The decision-making body's strength is likely to be increased from 24 to 28; former Prime Minister, and former party presidents, will be included to the list.
The steering committee will also consider the draft resolutions on political affairs, economy, external affairs, youth and unemployment, social empowerment and agriculture and farmers. After consideration, these resolutions will be forwarded to the subject committee, which will clear them on February 25, 26.
Thirdly, the party is expected to strategise roadmap for the 2024 general elections, alliances with other parties. The party president Kharge had mentioned during an election rally in Nagaland that any alliance will be led by the grand old party.
However, Ramesh maintained, on Thursday, that there was no urgency to answer the coalition question as there were Assembly elections in several states, including Chhattisgarh, before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Taking a cue from Rahul Gandhi’s attack on Trinamool Congress, the Rajya Sabha MP questioned TMC’s stand on the Adani-Hindenburg issue. He pointed out that it was the only Opposition party which had not pressed for a joint parliamentary probe into the issue.
“In the past 24 hours, systematic efforts have been made by the West Bengal ruling government to disqualify the Congress candidate for the bypoll because he is in a strong winning position,” added Ramesh.
Attacking the Modi government ahead of the plenary session, Ramesh termed the police action against party spokesperson Pawan Khera an example of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's politics of "vendetta and intimidation". “Whenever the BJP needs to arrest any political opponent, the Assam Chief Minister (Himanta Biswa Sarma) becomes active,” he quipped at a press conference in Nava Raipur at Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Convention centre on Thursday.
In the backdrop of the G20 meet, Modi and his ministers have put up hoardings with the message "India: Mother of Democracy", but in reality Ramesh underscored that "they were murdering democracy”.