After being in the wilderness of its own making, the grand old party of Indian politics looks to be serious about its business. After its decision to hold organisational elections to put in place a new-look leadership by September next, the Indian National Congress is now on a mission to create a new-look cadre, too. As per the new membership form the party has prepared, its new members should abstain from alcohol and drugs and should not hold property in excess of what is permitted under the law. The new Congressmen and women would be habitual wearers of authentic Khadi and would not practise social discrimination or inequality. They would be loyal foot soldiers of the party even willing to take up physical work assigned to them.
As the party that got the reins of the nation on Independence, the Congress had started off on Nehruvian principles on secularism and socialism; critics would now say the party has long said goodbye to them all. The new membership form, however, insists on its place on the left-of-the-centre in the political theatre, declaring its objective to establish a socialist state through peaceful and constitutional means, which is based on parliamentary democracy.
None would quarrel with the party for declaring its political positions in the open but some of the other membership conditions would put the whole act under a shadow. The party, which has been critical of the leftists for lack of democracy in their DNA, would banish the thought of criticising party policies except on the party fora. This does not exactly gel well with its basic democratic moorings, for the Congress has distinguished itself as a party that can stand criticism from within.
And one question remains. The “conditions apply” membership form is meant for the new members who would join the party during the membership drive to be held between November 1 and March 31, 2022. Is it that the party has absolute faith in its old guard? Yes, perhaps.