When a party is in the opposition, it’s organization comes alive. There are government deeds and misdeeds to pounce on, and one needs arguments backed up by solid research. So a party organization’s various cells, India’s equivalent of a shadow cabinet, have tremendous work to do.
But when a party happily comes to power, then there are enormous challenges in figuring out how to keep a party’s subject-focused cells active and engaged. Many subjects now become the domain of senior ministers, and it’s not clear what the role of the party cell should be.
As the Congress prepares to reorganize the AICC, this is one issue that should be given some serious attention. Perhaps there is a role for cells in ascertaining and communicating the party’s point of view on issues. Perhaps there is a role for cells in preparing a new generation of subject matter experts among the party workers. Perhaps some cells need to be folded into a new type of internal think tank, while others are charged with more field mobilization. Lots of thinking and planning to do, as we work to transform the party organization from bottom to top.
Whatever we do, we must ensure that we don’t pick up the newspapers to find articles that say:
AICC depts find no takers
The Congress party’s various departments and cells headed by prominent leaders remain non-functional. In the midst of a public debate on the Indo-Pak joint statement, for instance, the office of the party’s foreign affairs department headed by Karan Singh was closed as usual. While Singh shows up for meetings of foreign delegates with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, he stays away from his one-room office at the AICC headquarters. The department’s secretary Jayanthi Natarajan and joint secretary Ravni Thakur are also rarely seen in the office. Similarly, with Ajit Jogi going back to Chhattisgarh, there is no activity at the Scheduled Tribe department that he headed. The party’s SC and OBC departments are doing no better. It is the same story with the Vichar Vibhag headed by Devendra Dwivedi, who was recently appointed Gujarat Governor. The chairman of the Kisan and Khet Mazdoor Congress, Shamsher Singh Surjewala, rarely visits his office. Party leaders point out that most of the heads of the AICC departments and cells want more high-profile assignments in the government.