New Delhi: The Congress party will kick off its first plenary session under new president Rahul Gandhi on Friday, a meeting that will set the tone for the party’s preparations for the 2019 general elections.

The three-day session is significant because it is the first time since Gandhi took the reins that all top central and state leaders of the party will come together to ideate on the political, economic and social vision. The political vision document, according to leaders who are part of the drafting committee of the plenary session, is likely to be divided into three parts—failures of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA); comparison of the present government with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on key policy indicators; and the broad future outlook of the party.

“The focus of the vision document is going to be on youth, farmers, women and weaker communities. The draft will give a direction to the party under the new leadership and particularly ahead of the next general election, but it should not be seen as a manifesto for 2019," a senior leader who is part of the drafting committee said, requesting anonymity.

The plenary session will also ratify Gandhi’s appointment as Congress president. He assumed the post in December. Following this, he will have the power to reconstitute the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body. The plenary session will begin with a meeting of the steering committee, which will give the go-ahead to the vision documents.

Friday’s meeting will also take up the question of whether selection of new CWC members should be through elections or the traditional practice of nominations through consensus. The reconstitution of CWC could give Gandhi a chance to infuse young talent into the top leadership of the party.

Senior party leaders feel that although Gandhi has the option of calling for an election for CWC members, he is more likely to choose the nomination route. “Elections to the CWC have been rare and so it is unlikely this time too. Party president has the powers to nominate and this would help him build his own team," said another senior leader aware of developments, on condition of anonymity.

The session will also review the party’s repeated electoral setbacks since 2014 and take a stand on future alliances for both state and national polls.

Five sub-groups of the drafting committee—on political affairs, economic affairs, international affairs, constitutional amendments and agriculture, employment and poverty alleviation—were formed in the run-up to the plenary and all these issues could figure prominently in the session.

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