The Congress's revival plan says it needs to bring back into its fold Hindus repelled by the Sangh Parivar, take its message to youth and women and sections upset at curbs on their personal freedoms.
Archis Mohan reports.
A Congress party revival plan for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls has asked the leadership to take the initiative in shaping an opposition alliance, form electoral understandings where the party is weak, curb infighting and make efforts to bring moderate Hindus back to the party.
The plan says the Congress has a number of young leaders who can spearhead the revival effort, under the guidance of seniors.
The Congress’s research department, headed by Rajya Sabha member M V Rajeev Gowda, has given the revival blueprint to the leadership.
Gowda was appointed chairman of the reconstituted research department in June.
The plan attempts to diagnose how to redress these. It also makes an assessment of what the Bharatiya Janata Party had promised in 2014 and the “abysmal failure” of the Narendra Modi government to deliver on these, particularly on economic growth and job creation.
It has advised the party to present an alternative economic approach based on small businesses, job creation and entrepreneurship, and construct a narrative and ideology that go beyond appeals to caste and religious identities.
It says Modi risks a violent political backlash from a large section of youth and middle classes who had voted for his vision of achche din or better days, if the BJP fails to rein in its violent fringe.
Gowda and his team hope that the Congress would be able to convey to voters that communal tension would hit economic growth, even as the BJP tries to revive the Ram Janambhoomi issue.
The plan says the Congress needs to bring back into its fold Hindus repelled by the Sangh Parivar trying to “mangle” a pluralistic, tolerant and self-reforming faith.
The plan asks the party to take its message to youth and women, sections upset at curbs on their personal freedoms.
The Congress, it says, must strengthen outreach to sections disappointed with the government’s economic failures on the economic front and also those repelled by a divisive social agenda.
The party has started its outreach to powerful agrarian castes such as the Marathas in Maharashtra, Kapus in Andhra Pradesh, Jats in Haryana and Patidars in Gujarat.
In Karnataka, the Congress has taken up the issue of Hindi imposition by the Modi government. These varied groups represent a counter force to the Modi-led BJP, says Gowda.
On electoral strategy, it doesn’t rule out the possibility of the PM deciding to hold Lok Sabha elections in December 2018, along with assembly polls to Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
It believes the BJP faces severe anti-incumbency in these three states and simultaneous elections could be a way for it to overcome local anti-incumbency.
These states feature direct fights between the Congress and the BJP. The team says the Congress needs more electoral victories in the run-up to the next Lok Sabha poll, like the one in Punjab in 2017.
In 2014, the BJP won 254 of its 282 seats in their 11 states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bihar, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Haryana, plus Delhi.
The plan says a targeted effort can reduce the BJP’s tally in these states.
According to the research team, Modi has personalised and centralised governance and the Congress only needs to convince voters he misled them.
Modi will take the entire party down with him, it says.
It has also suggested the party showcase the contrast between Rahul Gandhi, willing to take questions, and Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, who rely on monologues.
It has also suggested the party put in place a shadow cabinet to showcase the BJP’s limited talent pool and the bench strength of the Congress.
It has advised the party to galvanise dormant workers, invest in training of workers on the lines of the Kerala unit, modernise departments and work on state-specific agendas to counter the BJP’s one-size-fits-all narrative.
It, however, believes it is vital to break the “stranglehold” of the BJP on the media narrative, to put forth a clearly articulated alternative vision through a sustained media and social media push.
A former professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, Gowda works with a team of younger party leaders like Ranajit Mukherjee and Harsh Vardhan Shyam and young graduates from some of the leading universities in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Photograph: PTI Photo