Jaipur, Jan 17: With Rahul Gandhi put in charge of the 2014 poll campaign, Congress will set out on a unique exercise here on Friday seeking to blend youth and experience to evolve a winning formula for the Lok Sabha elections just 16 months away. The significance of the two-day Chintan Shivir and the AICC meeting that will follow on Sunday is in view of the fact that a section of the Congress is favouring early Lok Sabha elections to coincide with Assembly polls in five states by the end of the year.
Narendra Modi is expected to emerge as a major talking point with his electoral hattrick in Gujarat with a CWC member saying that a discussion on current Indian politics cannot take place without direct or indirect mention of the controversial BJP leader. Party chief Sonia Gandhi along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will utilise the meet here to reach out to the middle class as also to evolve approaches that could appeal to the youth as the voter profile is increasingly turning young.
Incidentally, Congress under Rajiv Gandhi had brought down the voting age from 21 to 18. Youth will be the flavour of the season at Jaipur with Congress having invited as many as 160 odd young delegates who have been office bearers of the Indian Youth Congress and the NSUI. This is for the first time that such a high representation is being given to youth at such meets. Party leaders are also banking heavily on government's recent initiative on Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to ensure that subsidies under various central schemes reach in the form of cash directly to the accounts of beneficiaries.
Rahul Gandhi, who has involved Youth Congress leaders in a big way for implementation of DBT, had told them that if this programme was pushed properly, Congress can win not only this but even the next elections.
Consensus on various issues will form part of the draft 'Jaipur Declaration' which will be adopted by the AICC meeting having 1000 odd delegates on Sunday. It will also form the future course of action to face the electoral challenge. The year will witness Assembly elections in nine states including some states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where BJP is in power for the last decade.
The Congress conclave could be a repeat of its Shimla meet nine years ago on the issue of political alliances with the party deciding against going it alone in the next Lok Sabha elections. The general opinion at Shimla in 2003 was unity of secular forces as Congress was getting ready for the first experiment of sharing power at the Centre after 8 years in the opposition. Sonia Gandhi's opening remarks at the Chintan Shivir tomorrow will set the tone of the brainstorming session being attended by some 350 invitees in this desert state, where Congress is in power and facing Assembly polls later this year.
After Gandhi's address, the meeting will break into five different groups deliberating on various issues including Emerging Political Challenges and Organisational Strength. The Prime Minister and Rahul Gandhi will address the AICC meeting and they along with the Congress Chief would be participating in different sub groups for a brief period.
The sub-group on emerging political challenges headed by AK Antony has decided to focus the discussion on four points---major strategic challenges before 2014 elections, coalition in states, connecting with middle classes and greater synchronisation between the functioning and ideas of the government. In 2013 too, the emphasis is on alliances as party leaders are talking of formation of a UPA-III and AICC is in search of new friends and allies to retain power.