Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Congress membership to drop sharply

27 Oct 2009


By Jal Khambata

NEW DELHI: The ongoing Congress membership drive for holding the party elections early next year may show its total strength slump sharply. An irony is that the party's strength nosedives in a year of electoral trumps, thanks to a new rule inserted by heir-apparent Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi.

The rule that requires pasting of photograph on the membership form will automatically eliminate lakhs of bogus members that partymen used to enroll to qualify for various organisational elections.

Only an active member of the party can take part in the elections and one becomes so by enrolling at least 25 primary members. In the past, one would just copy names and addresses from the electoral rolls and deposit the requisite membership fee on their behalf to get qualified as an active member.

Even now the membership is just Rs 3 per head and that too for three years period of 2009 to 2012 and anyone could have easily deposited Rs 75 to become eligible for polls as an active member.

The new rule introduced by Rahul is, however, forcing the partymen to engage into a real membership drive, amid murmurs that it will be difficult for the members at the village levels to have their photographs ready for pasting on the membership form.

Some of the state units are already pestering the AICC headquarters to relax the rule, lest the total membership nosedives, making it very difficult for the party to explain where its lakhs of members have vanished.
Their contention is that the large number of farm workers, day labourers and women have either lack of time or no inclination to get themselves photographed.

The party sources say the rule, however, may not be waived, particularly because Rahul Gandhi is behind it as he thinks this alone will ensure revival of an inner-party democracy and end of the power brokers dictating the party outfits at various levels.

They say Rahul Gandhi is keen to reform the party from within. An effort in this direction has been already taken by him in his capacity as the incharge general secretary to ensure elections at all levels in the Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India (NSUI).

The Congress membership form for the period 2009-2012 calls for a self-declaration, with the member undertaking to wear certified khadi, shun alcohol and disproportionate assets, and work for socialist, secular and democratic goals.