The Udaipur Chintan Shivir of the Congress Party began with a message that each of its 400-odd delegates would reassemble in six separate groups of about 70 each members for their respective closed door discussions on the specifically allotted six different subjects. They should deposit their mobile phones in lockers kept outside each of the six halls and collect them back only after the discussions of each sitting were officially over.
The Congress leadership was crystal clear. There would be no mobile phones and no leaks. Their “Chintan Shivir” would have six separate meetings to discuss specific subjects, where the participants could only discuss the subject at hand and nothing else. And the media was banned from the main session hall where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others addressed the delegates during lunch breaks on day two.
With a Lok Sabha election barely a year away, it was not surprising that the first session of the Congress Chintan Shivir at Udaipur on Sunday began with a discussion of the political scenario in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.
This was done to ensure that no one could use their phones or cameras to record or photograph whatever specific information they were going to share with fellow members during these meetings. The audience of almost 400 delegates included some very senior leaders like former Chief Ministers, many Union Ministers and Chief Ministers.
This was the third time ever that such an exercise was being carried out in the history of the Congress Party. But the challenges before its newly-appointed General Secretary Madhusudan Mistry and Party President Rahul Gandhi this time around were far bigger than what they had imagined. While the previous two occasions happened when there was still a Prime Ministerial candidate from within the ranks of the party to nominate for election, this time around there were no such guarantees about who would become Prime Minister at all.