At the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting last week, the text of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s speech released by the party omitted something which she had said. It was about Gandhi telling the CWC members that whatever is discussed and whatever she says often find its way to the media. In the past too, the Congress was often taken by surprise when discussions taking place at the CWC had reached the media in real time. To check it, the party has asked all its leaders at the Chintan Shivir to keep their mobile phones away while holding group discussions on the six selected topics. These leaders were provided with lockers and keys to deposit their phones.
Not just that. The personal assistants (PAs) of all the leaders were also asked to leave Taj Aravali, where the three-day Shivir is taking place. The conclave’s venue is also out of bounds for the reporters – even photographers as well. So media persons were not allowed to enter the venue and cover the Congress president’s inaugural address. A make-shift media enclave has been set up some distance away from the venue, where Gandhi’s address was beamed live.
G-23 faces seated next to Sonia, Rahul
Although not intentional, the seating arrangements at the Shivir’s inaugural session evoked much interest. While the first row was reserved for the CWC members, there were no name plates. And it so happened that CWC members, Anand Sharma and Ghulam Nabi Azad, the key leaders of the dissident Group of 23 or G-23, were seated next to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. While the first row of 24 seats was reserved for the CWC members, Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath and Haryana Congress Legislature Party leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda managed to find a place there, as did Madhusudan Mistry, the head of the Congress’s election authority.
Gandhis join political, economic brainstorming
Gandhis joined the group discussions following the Shivir’s inaugural session. Significantly, Sonia Gandhi, who joined the group discussing the political issues did not sit at the head table, leaving it for the members of the Mallikarjun Kharge-headed group to occupy. The members of the group include Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ashok Chavan, N Uttam Kumar Reddy, Shashi Tharoor, Gaurav Gogoi, Saptagiri Sankar Ulaka, Pawan Khera and Ragini Nayak. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra too joined its deliberations. Rahul Gandhi joined the group discussing the economic issues. Shivir’s 430 delegates have been divided into six groups to brainstorm on six issues – political, economic, organisational, social justice, youth and empowerment and farmers and agriculture.