Elections 2014: Five months after poll debacle, Congress sticking to old ways

Elections: Congress sticking to old ways
New Delhi, Oct 12: Five months after its rout in the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress appears not to have made any major course correction with its plans of restructuring said to be still in the works.

With the Oct 15 assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana posing the first real test for both the BJP and the Congress after the April-May general election, the saffron party seems to be running a tight ship under Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a series of election rallies by its leaders. The Congress, however, seems to be sticking to its traditional method where party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi address a few public meetings while the onus of managing the campaign falls largely on the state leaders.

Since his momentous victory in the general election, Modi, 64, has continued his engagement with the people through his speeches, tweets and even a radio address. Rahul Gandhi, 44, who is evidently going to play a major role in the Congress efforts at revival, has had no such outreach.

BJP leaders said that Modi was expected to address about 35 rallies in the two states. But the number of rallies by Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi are expected to be much fewer in the poll-bound states.

There is a feeling among Congress workers that the party has much to learn from the way Modi has been able to turn around the fortunes of the BJP.

"Modi has good ability at marketing. We should be able to do the same. We were unable to project the achievements of the UPA government," said S. Shariff, a Congress worker from Karnataka.

He also said that young talented leaders should be appointed to the core team of the All India Congress Committee (AICC).

"The party should have accessible, result-oriented and decisive office-bearers. Procrastination has to be done away with and there has to be strong determination to win elections," he said.

Party leaders said that a revamp of the AICC was expected but will be done after the assembly elections.

"Once elections are over, we should expect part of Congress restructuring which will have Rahulji's stamp," a senior leader, who did not want to be named, told IANS.

He said the restructuring could not have been done earlier as the party was waiting to see which way the electoral winds blew in Haryana and Maharashtra - two states where it rules - in the Lok Sabha polls.

While Congress rules Haryana, it is part of the ruling coalition in Maharashtra.

"We won only two Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra and one in Haryana. If we had done an organisational revamp and still performed badly in Haryana and Maharashtra, the restructuring would not have had the desired impact," the leader confessed.

He reasoned that it was a five-year and not a five-month battle with the BJP.

For the assembly elections, opinion polls have predicted that the BJP could be in a position to form the government in the two states.

With the focus on Rahul as the Congress' face of the future, there have been questions about his consistency in taking up issues and his ability to connect with voters at a time when the party desperately needs to revive itself after its worst ever performance in a general election. The party has been reduced to a mere 44 seats in the present Lok Sabha from the over 200 seats it had earlier.

Party general secretary Digvijaya Singh had said in an interview a few weeks back that Rahul Gandhi should be more visible and should be heard more in this age of media and breaking news.

Echoing this sentiment, an official at the AICC office told IANS that Rahul Gandhi should be more accessible like his father Rajiv Gandhi and grandmother Indira Gandhi, both former prime ministers.

"Indira Gandhi used to meet our families. Rajiv Gandhi used to interact with us. It is very difficult to meet Rahul Gandhi," said another party leader.

But other senior Congress leaders said it was not necessary for Rahul Gandhi to be as visible as Modi.

Party general secretary Shakeel Ahmed reasoned that every person had his own style of functioning.

"He (Rahul) is doing things in his own way. He is taking care of the organisation. He is campaigning," Ahmed said.

Ahmed described Rahul as "the future of the Congress".

"He is the leader for us and the next generation," the Congress general secretary told IANS.

"Sonia Gandhi is the final authority and our ultimate leader. She is the leader of Rahul Gandhi also," he added.

Launching an attack on Modi, Ahmed said the prime minister has centralized all the power and it will backfire on the BJP.

"Modi has made other leaders irrelevant. It will boomerang on them. There is also overexposure (in the media)," he said.

A Congress leader also said that Modi devoting time to campaigning in state elections shows that "the BJP does not have local leadership in the states."

But ask them about the revamping and reorganisation of the party and the larger role Rahul Gandhi would play in shaping the prospects of the party and the leaders just mumble that it is on the cards - but not just now.


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