All set for Cong Chintan Shivir today

The Congress “Chintan Shivir,” set to take off here on Friday, will grapple with issues that have worried the government and brought the UPA to the brink of crisis.

The session will discuss several key issues including “flashmobs” and role of the social media in organising them, coalitions, regrouping the party apparatus in the forthcoming elections for five key state assemblies during the year.

Social media, which helped in organising protests – starting from Anna Hazare movement to the continuing stir against Delhi gang-rape – and consequently exposing the government’s failures, is expected to be one of the major topics to be discussed at the brain-storming session.

Meanwhile, at the government level, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari is understood to have been asked to see how to increase government’s response to these issues.  The issue of crime against women would be dealt with by one of the five sub-groups set up by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The group is likely to discuss the need to reform the criminal justice system to ensure swift punishment.

The conclave will also witness a large number of youth leaders, who have been invited to attend in a big number, thanks to the initiative taken up by Rahul Gandhi.  In fact, 167 of the 350 invitees for the session are below 45 years of age and most of them are drawn from Youth Congress and National Students Union of India, the two wings of the Congress for which Rahul is in-charge as the AICC general secretary. The idea of continuing coalition agenda for 2014 is expected to be approved in the session to pave way for the emergence of the UPA-III. The 1998 Chintan Shivir at Pachmarhi chose to ignore coalitions saying the Congress was the “natural party of governance,”.

The Shimla meet in 2003 witnessed a major change with the party accepting the reality and embracing coalition politics that led to the birth of UPA-I at Centre. Another major discussion would be on the state elections. Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Delhi would go to polls during the year and the biggest worry facing the party is to retain/wrest power in these states. The party is hopeful of wresting power in Karnataka from BJP but is deemed to be struggling in Rajasthan and Delhi which it rules at present.

Leaders are likely to deliberate on how to strengthen the party units in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where Congress has been out of power for more than two decades and MP, Odisha, Chattisgarh and Tripura where it is seeing failures from the last 10 years.

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