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Rediff.com  » News » Cong managers wary of faults in Rahul Gandhi's functioning

Cong managers wary of faults in Rahul Gandhi's functioning

December 10, 2013 08:21 IST

Cong managers wary of faults in Rahul Gandhi's functioning

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Anita Katyal in New Delhi

Some Congress insiders feel mere introspection over the assembly elections drubbing is not enough for the party. Instead, its vice president should first do some soul-searching himself. Anita Katyal reports.

A day after the Congress was routed in the recent assembly elections, its poll managers had a lot of explaining to do about the dismal performance to party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi at a specially convened meeting in New Delhi on Monday.

Senior leaders incharge of the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi tied themselves in knots when quizzed by Rahul Gandhi about where they had gone wrong. The Nehru-Gandhi scion raised queries about their failure to assess the popularity of the Aam Admit Party in Delhi, the problems in ticket distribution and the infighting in the various state units.

Congress general secretaries tasked with the responsibility of handling these elections predictably came armed with long explanations. While price rise was said to have contributed to the party’s debacle in Delhi, the failure to deny tickets to sitting MLAs cost the party dearly in Chhattisgarh, the leaders were told.

Of the 38 sitting legislators, 27 lost while nine of the ten Dalit candidates in Chhattisgarh were defeated, the meeting was told. Similar explanations were trotted out for the party’s humiliating defeat in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

While the purpose of this introspection exercise is to identify the party’s deficiencies and take corrective measures in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, party leaders privately maintained that Rahul Gandhi should first do some soul searching himself about his own style of functioning.

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Image: Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi interact with media following assembly polls debacle, in New Delhi on Monday
Photographs: Reuters

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'Youth not buying Rahul's India-Bharat divide speeches'

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While there are suggestions galore about how the Congress can put its house in order, several senior Congress leaders told Rediff.com that to begin with Rahul Gandhi should change his speech writers -- Jairam Ramesh and Madan Gopal -- as they are clearly out of sync with what people, especially the young, are thinking.

The emphasis on the India-Bharat and rich-poor divide, they said, failed to enthuse the public. It is imperative that Rahul Gandhi should reposition himself, shift focus and widen his perspective, the leaders said.

Another senior Congress minister maintained that Rahul Gandhi had, so far, concentrated his energies on putting processes in place and overhauling the party organisation, beginning with the Youth Congress and the National Students Union of India. But as the party’s PM-in-waiting, they said, Rahul Gandhi should interest himself in issues beyond the party’s internal affairs.

“He should be known for his views on issues which impact the people. With BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi having captured the imagination of the youth, Rahul Gandhi should make a special effort to connect with the young and address their grievances and aspirations,” the minister maintained.

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Image: Rahul should be known for his views on issues which impact the people, a senior Congress leader said
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'His views on price rise, women's security should be known to the people'

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For instance, it was pointed out, the party vice-president should have been more vocal during the anti-graft movement led by Anna Hazare by speaking out forcefully on corruption and transparency. Similarly, Rahul Gandhi ought to have articulated his views on issues pertaining to women’s security during the streets protests which followed last year’s gang rape in Delhi.

“His views on such issues should be known to the people,” a member of the Congress Working Committee told Rediff.com.

Rahul Gandhi did dash off to Bhatta-Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh to take up the case of farmers whose land was acquired and was said to have pushed for the framing of the new land acquisition bill, but he didn’t follow it up by taking full ownership of this far-reaching legislation.

There is also a growing feeling in the party that Rahul Gandhi should step out and meet people outside the party. “He should be better networked with people who matter,” said a senior Congress leader, adding that the party vice-president ought to reach out to allies and meet periodically with members of the corporate sector as well as the media.

Given his focus on organisational matters, Rahul Gandhi’s interactions are largely confined to party office bearers and state leaders.

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Image: Protestors display placards during a demonstration seeking punishment for rapists, in New Delhi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'Need a fresh, more communicative strategy for 2014 LS polls'

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Admitting that party’s poll managers will have to necessarily come up with a fresh strategy, programme and message for the 2014 Lok Sabha, Congress leaders said they must be more aggressive in highlighting the UPA government’s achievements and countering the opposition’s propaganda against them. It has been acknowledged by party leaders that the Congress had failed to reach out and communicate their message effectively while the opposition had taken full advantage of their weakness to paint the Congress-led UPA government as corrupt and weak.

“The widespread perception of a weak leadership has cost us dearly,” another Congress minister told Rediff.com.

Besides adopting a more aggressive stand, Congress insiders maintained there ought to be greater clarity on the party’s programmes and the government’s policies. Whether it is the decision on hiking in fuel prices or the formation of a separate state of Telangana, the party should be clear about it and be able to put across its views convincingly and forcefully.

“If the prices of essential commodities have risen, we should be able to explain why this has happened and the measures being taken by the government to deal with these issues,” said a senior Congress strategist.

Most importantly, Congress insiders said, the offices of the prime minister and finance minister must have greater involvement with the party. There is a perception that the PM and the finance minister are disconnected from the party and have no stakes in its future.

It is, therefore, imperative to bridge this communication gap or else it would strengthen the impression that the government and the party are working on parallel tracks, insiders sought to point out.


Image: Congress supporters campaign in Delhi
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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