Flashback: The History Of The ‘Chintan Shivir’ Of Congress

After independence, the country’s oldest and longest ruling Congress party, which is going through the most challenging phase of its history, is once again in the posture of ‘deep contemplation’. 

The party’s Chintan Shivir is going on in the historic city of Udaipur, Rajasthan. In this camp, the party has called more than 400 of its leaders from across the country, who will reflect on the present condition of the party and its future direction. 

In fact, the Congress has a tradition of such contemplation camps, which was started by Indira Gandhi in the 1970s. The Congress felt the need to reflect in the wake of the challenge of the student movement of Gujarat in 1974 and the subsequent nationwide movement on the call of Jayaprakash Narayan. 

In 1974, the party’s Chintan Shivir was held at Narora (Bulandshahr) in Uttar Pradesh from 22 to 24 November. This was the Congress’s first contemplation camp, the responsibility of which was entrusted by Indira Gandhi to Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna. Bahuguna used to be the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh at that time. 

The camp was not held in a five-star hotel or resort, but in an open field with tents. 

Arrangements were also made for the stay of all the big leaders in that place. In the bitter winter, all the party veterans had spent two nights in tents. 

During the three-day camp, different committees discussed different issues and held collective consultations on finding a way out of the increasingly intensifying opposition parties’ attacks on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her government. 

In this contemplation camp of Narora, the party had fixed 13 points for the strength of the organization and for countering the opposition attacks. 

It is another matter that despite all the contemplation, the graph of popularity of Indira Gandhi and her government fell and the opposition movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan intensified, which Indira Gandhi had to resort to emergency to suppress. 

Sonia Gandhi had recently taken over the reins of the Congress and she had to prove herself. By that time the country had entered the era of coalition politics and the fifth coalition government was running at the Centre. 

But despite this the Congress did not accept the politics of alliance and decided to adopt the policy of ‘Ekla Chalo’ in Pachmarhi camp. 

The political resolution passed in the Pachmarhi camp said that the Congress would fight the Lok Sabha elections on its own all over the country, but would form a respectable alliance with local state-level parties to contest the assembly elections in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. and will strengthen itself in these states. 

But the reality is that far from being strong in these four states, on the contrary, in many other states the Congress has remained a marginalized party. 

However, after that camp, the Congress fought the 1999 Lok Sabha elections single-handedly and had to face defeat again. 

While in opposition, the Congress once again started worrying about its future and decided to organize another Chintan Shivir. 

Its third contemplation camp was held in Shimla in 2003, which is considered to be the most important camp ever. 

In the same camp, Congress had accepted the politics of alliance leaving the path of ‘Ekla Chalo’.

In fact, after being out of power at the Center in 1996, when the Congress could not perform well in the elections of 1998 and 1999, then its leaders started feeling anxious to return to power. After becoming the Prime Minister in 1998 on the basis of a coalition of 24 small and big parties, Atal Bihari Vajpayee emerged stronger in 1999. 

At that time, the Congress leaders were beginning to feel that now if the Congress also did not adopt coalition politics, then the party would never be able to return to power.

So Congress changed the policy. This also benefited him and he returned to power in 2004. Although the reality is that in 2004, except for the alliance in one or two states, the Congress fought almost alone and after the elections, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was formed under the leadership of the Congress to stop the BJP, which was a Decades later, the 2014 elections had largely disintegrated. 

The truth is also that after the 2003 Shimla camp, there was no effective Chintan Shivir of the Congress. 

By the way, in January 2013, a Chintan Shivir was held in Jaipur. 

There was no contemplation in it at all, but the kirtans of the Nehru-Gandhi family were full. 

There was no discussion in that camp on how to neutralize the ten-year anti-incumbency wave in the 2014 elections. 

There was also no discussion on how to strengthen or expand the UPA. There was no discussion on the issue as to how to counter the buzz of Modi name rising all over the country. 

The question of inflation and the atmosphere created against the government by the alleged anti-corruption agitations of Anna Hazare and Ramdev, sponsored by the RSS-BJP and corporate media, also did not reflect in that camp. 

The only remarkable thing about the Jaipur camp was that it was decided to make Rahul Gandhi the vice-president of the party. 

It has been eight years since the Congress was out of power. During these eight years, there have been innumerable issues in front of her, on which she could have surrounded the present government from the road to the Parliament. 

But neither he did so alone nor did he show any desire to organize any mass movement or program of struggle against the government by uniting other opposition parties. 

In the last eight years, it had organized a meeting of opposition parties only once in May 2018. He had called that meeting not voluntarily but on the pressure of Sharad Pawar and Sharad Yadav. 

But even in that meeting of 14 parties, nothing remarkable happened other than just the photo op.

In fact, the biggest problem with the Congress with regard to coalition politics is that it is usually inclined to form alliances in only those states where it is organizationally very weak and its support base has been eroded – such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, In the states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka Maharashtra etc. 

In states where it is in direct competition with the BJP, it is not interested in alliances with smaller parties with limited sphere of influence. 

Congress often has to bear the brunt of this tendency. In this connection, for example, the last election of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly can be remembered. 

Had she forged a decent alliance with Sharad Pawar’s NCP, BSP and the Bharatiya Tribal Party in that election, she could have fulfilled her ambition of ousting the BJP from power in Gujarat. 

He had repeated the same mistake as Gujarat later in Madhya Pradesh also.

In fact, it has been more than three decades since the era of coalition started in the politics of the country and for ten years, the Congress itself has led the coalition government, despite the fact that the Congress, which has been dilapidated during the last eight years.

The leadership and its advisors are still unable to digest the ground reality that the days of his single-handed rule at the Center are over. 

They are not even ready to learn about it from the BJP, which has completely embraced coalition politics despite its vast expansion of influence in the last three decades. 

Be it sharing of seats in elections or sharing of power, in any case, it does not lag behind in showing generosity towards its alliance partners. 

Due to this generosity and political understanding, under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his government continued for six years with a coalition of more than two dozen parties.

Therefore, the meaning of this thinking camp of the Congress is that instead of chanting the leadership, making the party organization strong and dynamic, understanding its weaknesses, forming an open-minded alliance with other opposition parties, choosing good candidates, social media networks.

There should be a thought on practical agenda like making people effective, creating popular slogans and the conclusions drawn from that thinking should be implemented with full capacity. 

If this does not happen, then do not one but many such meditation camps. The only way to win them was by getting out.

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