Congress goes social: Who will talk to aam aadmi, Mr Rahul?
Communication persists to be Congress party’s biggest hurdle in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Rahul Gandhi may be pushing for social networking tools to boost Congress fortunes, but all that his partymen are asking for are transparency and rebuilding grassroot support. Renu Mittal reports
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi wants the all-India army of party spokespersons to be a unified, dignified, lot, speaking in one voice, mouthing only the party line and using genteel and “proper” language focusing of progress and development as they all belong to the party of Mahatma Gandhi.
Rahul’s two-day workshop on media spokespersons left more questions unanswered and left a large number of those who had come from all over the country unsatisfied with what was being said and what they were supposed to do.
While social networking sites have become important in today’s world of communication, the fact remains they are accessed by a miniscule percentage of the people in the country, with the vast majority unaware of what it is all about.
The recent electoral victories of Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, Vir Bhadra Singh in Himachal Pradesh and Siddharamiah in Karnataka were all by men who had grass root support and did not depend on social networking sites like Twitter to make their mass contact programme.
As one senior leader put, “While these are interesting tools up to a point, the real challenge is the political one where Congress leaders need to be in touch with the people directly. Most of those who have held important posts in the last 9 years of the UPA government simply have no contact with the people and those who do -- like Vir Bhadra Singh -- come back victorious”.
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So what exactly is the party line on issues?
Congress leaders give the example of tech savvy Pramod Mahajan who in 2004 ran a highly technology-driven campaign to push the BJP’s poll campaign, but nothing worked as the real issue was the people’s anger against the BJP which was perceived as a pro-rich party.
When Rahul threatens action on leaders who deviate from the party line or speak out of turn, or speak in different voices on different issues, a large number of people are asking as to what the party line is actually.
Senior party leaders say that no Congress Working Committee meet is held where issues can be thrashed out and no one has any inkling of what goes on in the core group meetings. So, very few leaders are really aware of the party line on issues.
Senior leaders like Digvijaya Singh tweet on most issues and even if there is a gag order he continues to make statements which the party denies but then later admits to them being right.
With many media outlets are seen to be against the UPA government and the Congress, the party has continued for the most part undeterred by what the media has been saying and doing.
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'Why not stand up and support the truth?'
But Rahul now feels that the situation can not go on like this and is making a conscience effort to bring the party up to date with current trends in communication. While being young and active is good, he would also do well to bring in people who have a sense of Congress history and dynamics, and how that can be superimposed to give more weight to the arguments being advanced today.
On Monday when senior leader Shakeel Ahmed tweeted about the Indian Mujahideen being fallout of the 2002 Gujarat riots, the BJP went ballistic condemning the Congress.
Nobody in the Congress came out to side with Ahmed, who was quoting from a National Investigation Agency report.
What Shakeel was saying was technically true, said a senior congress leader.
"So why should the party not have stood up and backed him to the hilt," he asked, adding, “Rahul wants the truth and not lies to be voiced. So when the truth is spoken should he not stand up and support the truth, no matter how ballistic the BJP goes on an issue?"
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