Congress training centre for cadres on party ideology takes shape in Kerala

Congress training centre for cadres on party ideology takes shape in Kerala

New Delhi: From underlining the “difference” between Hinduism and Hindutva to emphasising the need to use “adivasi” instead of vanvasi to describe Indigenous communities – Rahul Gandhi has over the years consistently framed his fight against the BJP-RSS on sharp ideological lines.

In a step towards inculcating those ideas among its cadres, the Congress is setting up a permanent training and research centre in Kerala for its workers and leaders from across the country, ThePrint has learnt. P.P. Balan, a former senior consultant in the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, has been appointed its director.

Confirming the development, Balan told ThePrint Wednesday that he was likely to formally take charge of the centre located in Thiruvananthapuram, on 20 July.

The Thiruvananthapuram-based Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Developmental Studies (RGIDS), inaugurated by Sonia Gandhi in September 2013, will house the training and research centre, said Balan, who had also served as director of the Kerala Institute of Local Administration (KILA) and the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID).

Gandhi’s belief that ideological clarity was of paramount importance for the Congress’ revival had also, at one point, prompted its leadership to explore the possibility of making such training sessions mandatory for leaders to take up organisational posts, a senior party leader told ThePrint.

Addressing the Udaipur Chintan Shivir, the party’s brainstorming conclave in 2022, Gandhi had landed the Congress in a spot by declaring that regional parties were not capable of defeating the BJP as they lacked an ideology.

“This battle cannot be fought by a regional party, because it is a battle of ideology,” he had said, adding, “My fight is with the ideology of RSS and BJP which is a threat to our country. The hatred these people spread, they spread violence, I fight against it and I want to fight. This is the battle of my life for me.”

Gandhi has long advocated the need to train Congress workers – especially those active at the grassroots level – about the foundational ideas of the party. The Congress does have a training wing for this purpose.

In February 2019, Gandhi, who was then the president of the party, appointed his close aide Sachin Rao as in-charge of the Congress training department and the magazine Sandesh, which is also supposed to act as a vehicle for its ideas and ideology.

Rao told ThePrint that training programmes in the Congress have so far been decentralised in nature.

“We have some programmes such as a 30-day leadership development programme. Some other programmes are state-specific. From the party’s ideology to the country’s political situation, many aspects are covered in such programmes. The Kerala centre was already fairly vibrant as the state has a long tradition of such political training initiatives,” he said.

A permanent training centre, however, will be a first for the party as so far such sessions have been held from time to time in various places.

“We are starting work on preparing a vision document. It will be followed by training modules and a curriculum. The idea is to focus on capacity building, offering a sense of ideological clarity to not just Congress workers, but leaders too. The training will equip workers to effectively communicate the message of the party, the idea in its manifesto among the people. A training calendar is being worked out for this purpose,” Balan told ThePrint.

While Balan said a curriculum was still in the works, it is expected to have Gandhi’s imprint such as his constant advocacy of “love” or “mohabbat ki dukaan” as a weapon to counter hate, and treating the Constitution of India as a guiding light, among others.

In an editorial in the Congress mouthpiece Sandesh, Gandhi said in January 2022 that a struggle was underway in India between the two sides with very different ideologies and visions for India — the Congress and forces “who are intent on once again enslaving our people and handing over the nation to a few interests”.

“If our workers are to be effective in this struggle, they must be clear on the ideologies, politics and issues at stake. The only way to build this capacity in our workers is regular and systematic training,” the piece had said, announcing a temporary training camp in Maharashtra’s Wardha.

Balan said that apart from holding training sessions, the centre would also take up research work. “We will analyse various government schemes, for instance, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005. The idea is to plug gaps, offer ideas to improve,” he said.

Set up on the banks of the Neyyar Dam, the RGIDS has a sprawling 40,000 square feet building, which was so far being managed by the Kerala unit of the Congress. “Now the building will be the national nerve centre of the training wing of the Congress,” Balan said.

(Edited by Tikli Basu)

Also read: In AIADMK’s boycott of today’s Vikravandi bypoll, a message to former ally PMK


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