Congress likely to hold brainstorming AICC meet in March

Battered by successive election defeats, Congress is likely to hold a brainstorming AICC meet in March next year to work out a strategy to arrest the party's sliding base and enthuse its cadres.

New Delhi: Battered by successive election defeats, Congress is likely to hold a brainstorming AICC meet in March next year to work out a strategy to arrest the party's sliding base and enthuse its cadres.

Party sources said on Friday that such a meeting could be held in March to hammer out solutions for the party after Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi receives inputs from the states and districts by February end for which AICC general secretaries were given specific instructions on Wednesday.

The last AICC meeting was held on January 17 this year, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in which Gandhi had said that "though there is a tough battle ahead, the Congress will go into battle as warrior with heads held high."

It was the same meeting during which Manishankar Aiyar had made controversial "tea-seller" remark against the then BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

The Lok Sabha polls saw the Congress tally plummeting from 206 in 2009 to a mere 44.

Since then, serious deliberations have started in Congress about its ideological pull, connect with masses and form of organisation as the party entered into its 130th year on Sunday.

Top leadership of the party will be present in the AICC on December 28, when the party will observe its 130th Foundation Day.

The party Vice President, who was Congress face for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in which the party recorded its worst-ever performance, has begun a post-mortem of the debacle and held a series of consultations with leaders from across the country in groups.

Many leaders in Congress believe that the challenge before the party this time is bigger as while on one hand it's vote base in Hindi states has been taken by parties representing caste aspirations, it faces a 'Hindutva' force at the national level amid an impression having been created that Congress appeases minority in the name of secularism.

In his Wednesday consultations with party general secretaries and frontal wing chiefs, Gandhi asked them to reach out to workers at the grass-roots for feedback on how to take the party forward after successive poll debacles.

Reacting to questions on whether Rahul Gandhi asked them to seek the feedback of grassroot leaders on whether the party is perceived as "anti-Hindu", AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed said," Gandhi made no such remarks. It is completely untrue."

Maintaining that he was present in the meeting and had briefed the media about it, Ahmed said,"He asked us to get the feedback from party workers on carrying forward to states and districts the core ideology of Congress and about structured strengthening of the party.

He also wanted feedback on whether the process of appointment of office bearers should be through elections or nominations or it should be a combination of both and how to extend the expand the reach of party in all sections and that the focus should be on taking up state specific issues, Ahmed said.

At the AICC briefing, party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi dubbed the reports regarding Congress seeking feedback on its perceived "anti-Hindu" image as "highly speculative".

"This is too general and a vague question. I am not here to comment on speculative news reports. We do not do that. Yes a meeting did take place in which various issues were discussed.

"But that does not mean I will confirm whatever else is said in reports," Singhvi said when asked about a newspaper report.

Sources, however, maintained that though the issue was not discussed in the Wednesday meeting, some leaders had voiced this concern to Gandhi in earlier deliberations that the Opposition was successful in creating an impression that Congress was resorting to minoritysm and there is a need to correct that impression.

The issue has earlier also been flagged in public domain by some senior leaders including party veteran A K Antony but later he as well as the party had described his remarks as concerned with only Kerala politics.

In the meeting, Gandhi had asked the general secretaries to prepare a report within two months with feedback from block and district-level workers to reinvigorate the party and widen its mass-base.

The deadline for membership enrolment for the party for the next organisational election too comes to end in February.

The defeat trail of Congress has not stopped since the Lok Sabha polls, which saw its tally dropping to an abysmal 44 from 206 in 2009.

Barring the Assembly election results in some states a few months ago, there has been no silver lining for the party in the last six months.

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