Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi | Photo: PTI
New Delhi: After a series of electoral defeats and internal challenges, the Congress' three-day brainstorming conclave in Udaipur, starting on Friday, will focus on time-bound party restructuring for strengthening the organisation and making it battle-ready for the 2024 Lok Sabha election, besides evolving a strategy for future alliances.
Top Congress leaders will come out with solutions and clear the party's stance on key issues including polarisation, Centre-state ties, forming of alliances and attempts at bringing in ''uniformity", especially in the Northeast, that are confronting the country and the party, Congress sources said.
The issue of leadership in the Congress is not likely to be discussed at the Udaipur 'Chintan Shivir', party sources said, even as several leaders at the conclave are likely to push for Rahul Gandhi to retake the reins of the party.
"The leadership issue will not be on the table," a party leader said.
The Congress is holding the Chintan Shivir at Udaipur in Rajasthan from May 13 to 15 after a gap of almost nine years while facing "an unprecedented crisis" as it remains in power on its own in just two states and has less than 100 members in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
Unlike in the past, when Chintan Shivirs did not set any set timelines, the Udaipur declaration will state time-bound initiation and accomplishing of structural changes in the organisation at all levels - national, state, district and block.
"We have to make changes which are meaningful and not merely cosmetic" in order to revamp the party," a senior leader said ahead of the session, stressing that the decisions will be "action-oriented" and not just a declaration.
These structural changes will be discussed and implemented within the set timelines, the leader said, adding that the party's agitational programme and steps for public contact ahead of elections would also be finalised.
The focus would be on political issues and on the organisation and most of the discussions would be on how to strengthen it through reforms within, at all levels.
"The mandate is to make the conclave meaningful and make the Udaipur declaration actionable. The Congress would also come out with solutions and clear its positions on issues confronting it," he said.
"Our aim is 2024 Lok Sabha elections and to prepare for them," he said.
The last such conclave was held in Jaipur in 2013 when the Congress-led UPA was in power. It focussed on the elevation of Rahul Gandhi as vice president of the party.
In its 'shivir' in Pachmarhi in 1998, the party said it did not require any alliances but during the Shimla conclave in 2003, the Congress agreed to have a partnership with like-minded parties.
While stressing the importance of alignment of non-BJP forces, Congress leaders on Wednesday said the party would need to be internally strengthened first to gain a pole position in the event of an opposition understanding for the 2024 general elections.
They noted that no opposition alliance could be viable without the Congress.
"But the Congress needs to revive and rebuild to gain a place of prominence at the centre of any potential anti-BJP alliance," said a senior leader.
"The message is clear that if the Congress is weak, any coalition of non-BJP forces cannot happen. But if the Congress is strong, the alliance too would be strong. Without the Congress revamp, the alliances would not be very effective," he said.
The senior Congress leader also said the Congress should not go for any alliance "blindly" and that it should first strengthen the organisation.
"There will also be a discussion on what should be the Congress' stand on alliances," he said, adding that the party would delve into the growth of some regional parties like the TMC, AAP, YSRCP and the TRS.
The leader specified that the party is clear that it cannot have a tie-up with the TRS and AAP and that has already been made clear.
The Udaipur Shivir will culminate in a Nav Sankalp Resolution which will be the outcome of three days of in-depth deliberations on the political, social, economic, organisational and agricultural issues and the party's response to these challenges.
The Congress will focus on issues of polarisation, center-state relations, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, economic downturn, disinvestment of PSUs, MSP, social inequities and problems facing the youth.
The conclave will begin with introductory remarks of Congress President Sonia Gandhi on May 13 and a valedictory address by Rahul Gandhi on May 15.
The Shivir will begin at 2 PM following which over 400 delegates will discuss subject-specific issues across six groups. These discussions will continue on the first and second days and the conclusions will be recorded in the form of a declaration, a draft of which will be discussed at the CWC meeting to be held there on the last day.
After former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's remarks on the concluding day and later the Congress president's remarks, the 'Nav Sankalp' declaration would be adopted.
Rahul Gandhi and several other leaders would reach Udaipur by train after an overnight journey, while Sonia Gandhi would reach Udaipur on May 13 by air.
Sources said mobiles would not be allowed during deliberations. This comes after the Congress chief said at the last CWC meeting that internal discussions found their way out into the media.