The road to the state Assembly elections, especially in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, isn't bereft of challenges for the Congress party.
Experts opine that in Madhya Pradesh, the party is faced with multiple obstacles: rising communal polarisation, popularity of CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in addition to the organisational base of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
In Rajasthan, the Congress' main problems are infighting and the state's tendency to change the party in power every five years.
But brimming with the 'success' of Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra, the Congress intends to lay down a clear plan of action in its upcoming 85th Plenary Session in Chhattisgarh's Raipur from 24 February to 26 February.
What will be the key points of discussion at the All India Congress Committee's plenary session? And what is expected? The Quint spoke to experts to find out more.
15,000 Party Officials To Camp for 3 Days in Raipur
According to sources in the Congress, the focus of the plenary session would be to prepare a roadmap for the Assembly elections in 2023 and the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
This is the 85th Plenary Session of the Congress and the last before the general elections.
Around 1,800 elected and co-opted AICC delegates (former MLAs, MPs, and party officials) will be attending the event to discuss key matters of policy and electoral tactics. Over 9,000 Pradesh Congress Committee delegates and 3,000 co-opted delegates will also be present at the event in Raipur.
A huge stage has been set up in Naya Raipur's Rajyotsav Ground, which can house around 250 leaders at one go.
The event is being jointly organised by the AICC and the state Congress. The party has arranged for 6,000 hotel rooms, 4,000 flats of the Chhattisgarh Housing Board, and flats in other residential societies to accommodate the guests during the event.
Apart from this, a five-bed hospital and multiple mobile medical units have been put in place for the event.
What's on the Agenda?
The three-day event will begin with the constitution of a steering committee – a transitional body in place of the Congress' Working Committee (CWC). The committee will approve the proposed resolutions by the drafting committee, following which the subject committee of the plenary session would discuss them and give their final approval to these resolutions.
The steering committee will also finalise the agenda for the next two days on the morning of 24 February.
"The actual plenary for the delegates will start on the morning of 25 February at around 9.30 am. The discussions on various issues, including education, unemployment, inflation, and our roadmap for the elections, among other issues, will be discussed," Congress' general secretary KC Venugopal told the media.
Venugopal further added that the slogan for the session would be 'Hath Se Hath Jodo' – which is also a political campaign launched by the Congress after the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Focus on Elections, Roadmap for Party Workers: Key Points of Discussion
Party sources said that the focus of the plenary would be primarily on devising an agenda for the 2024 elections and strengthening the organisation.
"Bharat Jodo Yatra has given a clear-cut direction to the Congress workers – how to take up the current important issues in the public domain. We raised the issue of unemployment, inflation, and the cut divisive agenda against (of the BJP government."KC Venugopal
Talking to The Quint, R Krishna Das, a senior journalist based in Raipur, said that the plenary session would give the Congress a chance to focus on the overall approach of the party towards elections as well as towards cross-party coordination.
"The Congress will focus on sharpening its tactics to mobilise its cadre. It has achieved a great deal by the Bharat Jodo Yatra, but it is a long way before the end – and the Congress wouldn't want to miss out on the momentum it has garnered in the last six-eight months."R Krishna Das
Das further said that the Congress would also be looking to clarify its stance and deliberate on coordination with other parties before the elections. He said:
"The Congress would be looking to get some things sorted out with respect to the coalition and how to handle it since the regional parties are – if in Congress' opposition – an issue for the party. Discussions on leadership and how to approach other parties would surely be an important part of the session. Opposition unity is very important."
Another senior journalist-turned-political-commentator Deepak Tiwari, who is based out of Bhopal, concurred with Krishna Das on the Congress' stand on coalitions. He said:
"Apart from their internal deliberations on the party structure, the Congress would surely be looking to ponder on the coalition question and how to go about it. After the Bharat Jodo Yatra, mutual respect across party lines in the Opposition ranks seems to have increased, and it's high time for the Congress to make effort to strengthen this. They have shown that they are alive as a party through the Bharat Jodo Yatra and would now focus on regrouping and then taking the BJP head-on."
Political Reactions So Far
Even as the Congress is gearing up for the plenary session, raids were conducted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the premises of Chhattisgarh's Congress MLAs and party loyalists.
Condemning the raids, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel called them "politically motivated." The student and youth wings of Congress even staged protests against the ED.
In another development, the Congress appointed Jagdish Tytler as a plenary member of the AICC, drawing sharp reactions from the Aam Aadmi Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal, who accused him of being involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom.