Not one speaker will have the guts even to hint that the party needs a change at the top.

The wags are not calling it Chintan Shivir but Chinta Shivir. This says a lot about the dismal state of the Congress party, under the collective leadership of seventy-six-year-old Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra.
Whose bright idea was it to have the Shivir in the middle of May in Rajasthan when the temperature would be well over 40 degrees? Udaipur is an attractive and historic city. Why could the Chintan Shivir not be held in November?
According to newspaper reports, four hundred delegates will descend on Udaipur. Does the city have a hall to accommodate 400-plus people? I doubt it. I hope I am wrong. A two-day session under a tent would be a penance. The Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot is an experienced organiser and an expert team leader. He will be aware of the logistics problem. He will be carrying a heavy load on his ageing shoulders. If I am not mistaken, he is in his 70th year.
Bandobast is one part of the Shivir. The vital part is the agenda. The purpose of the Shivir is to reflect, come up with fresh ideas, to select speakers who will offer worthwhile proposals for reform, revival, rejuvenation and reorganization of the party.
Not one speaker will have the guts even to hint that the party needs a change at the top. On the contrary, with undiluted passion each will attempt to outdo the other in declaring that the party has full faith in the Gandhi trio and cannot do without them (loud and prolonged applause). Even if the Gandhis hinted of change of leadership at the top, pandemonium will follow: “We want Soniaji, Rahulji, Priyankaji, no one else.” Concealment of the shortcomings of the leadership has become a mantra. The family is the everlasting backbone and inspiration of the Congress party is the chorus.
Sonia probably does not wish to continue as President. She will be 76 in December. Does not keep good health. Whom will she choose? Rahul without doubt. If he refuses to wear the thorny crown, then who else? Apparently, Prashant Kishore suggested Priyankas’s name. So, it will be six of one and half a dozen of the other.
Suppose, for a moment, that the Gandhis decide to step down. Who will succeed Sonia? The 400 faithful will vehemently and vociferously insist on her continuing at the top. She can’t walk out. That would be contrary to Congress culture. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose—i.e., the more you change things, the more they remain the same.
The other day an old and very highly critical Congressman came to meet me. He was in despair: “How could our party (I told him I was no longer a member of Congress party) become a junk shop of intellectual debris?”
I said to him, “Indian democracy cannot be without the Congress. What it urgently needs is a change of leadership. Alas! That seems unlikely. None in the party wants to rock the boat.”
I became aware of the existence of Shri Prashant Kishor not so long back. He is obviously a man of high intelligence, exceptional political and electoral acumen. Several of his electoral forecasts have been on the spot. Hence, he is in great demand. However, his one week’s parley with Sonia Gandhi and senior Congress leaders last week did not produce the expected results. The party apparently found his ideas and proposals too revolutionary (I am going by media reports). He politely declined the offer to join the Congress.
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I was not enthused by the Raisina Dialogue. There were too many diplomatic lightweights floating around.
Our External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar performed brilliantly. Some delegates were critical of our abstentions at the UN and our buying oil from Russia. He put them in their place, reminding them of the amount of gas and oil they bought from Russia.
I have known Jaishankar for many years. He is now among the most well-known and admired Foreign Ministers in the world. He has one problem. He can’t sleep at night. Why? Jet lag.