Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh greet each other after CWC meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday

Congress top leadership’s attempts to look beyond its ideology of secularism along with welfare of poor to focus on aspirational middle class faced stiff resistance here at the party’s highest decision making 38-member body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), which deliberated the revival plans after series of electoral debacles in Lok Sabha and state elections. Congress president Sonia Gandhi who initiated the discussions said the leaders have an obligation to renew, reinvigorate and revive the party.Many members, who spoke on the background paper and the draft revival plan circulated at the meeting, took strong objections to making party’s core ideology of secularism a point of discussion. Insiders said, a majority of leaders pointed out that party has no escape from secularism, as historically, it has been a broad coalition of SCs/STs/OBCs and minorities. Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who along with his team had authored the paper on the basis of a series of consultations, at the end of discussions is understood to have clarified that Congress was the only socially liberal political party in the country and the background note only pointed out to take up all progressive issues, but not limited to secularism and welfare of poor.The CWC, however, endorsed a plan to shift power to the DCCs (district Congress committees) in dictating all policy decisions of the party government in the states. It was decided that all key government policies should be first discussed and ratified by a majority of the DCCs, with a clear guideline to the Congress-ruled states to involve the party in all key decisions. It calls for involving the lowest rung of units in preparation of the manifesto and its monitoring.Sonia Gandhi, who presided the meeting asked leaders to seek a feedback from state, district and block units in order to bring in major organisational changes in the party. Many leaders complained that some general secretaries and state presidents don’t relinquish their posts, thus blocking prospects of younger leaders. There was also suggestion to fix tenure of posts from earlier 5 to 3 years.Using the occasion, the Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who chaired the meeting strongly criticised the Narendra Modi government for taking the ordinance route and bypassing Parliament on all crucial matters and also polarising the society. “The BJP government has already promulgated 10 ordinances in its seven month tenbure, which roughly translates to one ordinance every 28 days,” she said, while calling it an attack on parliamentary democracy. The meeting also decided to launch a massive membership drive by launching a nationwide mass contact programme. “We will use new technology to connect with the youth and drive membership higher,” Congress said.Sonia Gandhi emphasised that the way forward was to go back to people. “All of us from AICC down to the block level, need to renew ties and connections with the people everywhere; listen to their grievances and aspirations and then find a way out to articulate their hopes and desires. A mass political party has to reach out to all sections of society,” she said.

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No escape from secularism, say Congress leaders