First Signs of Revival

Rahul Gandhi has taken the reins of the Congress party at a crucial time. The party is facing an all-time low and Rahul will have to work very hard to rejuvenate his party.On the road to 2019 General Elections Rahul has many challenges before him but he alsohas tremendous potential to turn the tide one and a half years from now, writes PANKAJ SHARMA

There was never such a difficult time in the history of 132 years old Congress party than the present times. After Independence, there were times when the Congress had to face various challenges, but never ever there was any threat to its existence. Rahul Gandhi has taken over as the president of the Congress party at a time when it is facing a bulldozing threat coming from the ruling dispensation with an open declaration of establishing Congress-free India. To achieve this goal, no stone is spared unturned, no values are respected and no ethics are given any space.
At a time when it is all-time low for the Congress, Rahul’s elevation is important to give a new direction to his party for which he will have to literally work very hard. His tireless performance in Gujarat is an assurance for a bright future for the Congress party. Despite playing every possible trickthe Bharatiya Janata Party could not reach the three-digit mark in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP supremo Amit Shah. If Rahul could do this in Gujarat he can well repeat it in forthcoming elections in the states and finally in the General Elections in 2019.
Armed with new zeal and energy Rahul has an opportunity to transform Congress into an instrument for dialogue among the Indian people. After taking over the reins Rahul has made it clear that he wants to make Congress an inclusive and forward looking party which takes along all religions, all ethnicities, all ages and all genders. He wants the Congress to prepare for the dialogue led by love and affection and fight against the politics that is trying to take us backward– to a mediaeval past where people are butchered because of who they are, beaten for what they believe and killed for what they eat.
Rahul Gandhi has two principal jobs in hands to be completed in next few months. One, providing a strong internal structure to his party. Two, positioning the Congress party in the current socioeconomic narrative. Though Rahul has been giving ample indications and taking several steps in this direction for the past few months, both these things demand immediate implementation now. The 2019 General Elections are only 16 months away and before that Rahul has to lead his party in state elections to be held this year.
To provide a solid structure to the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi will have to ensure the removal of every single blockade in party arteries. He must open more and more windows to let the people and ideas come in. Only then his idea of reaching to every corner could take shape. A leader’s reach to people and people’s reach to their leader depend on free windows. Now as the full-fledged chief of his party Rahul must have some mechanism so that district-level leaders from across the nation can meet him from time to time. The Congress party needs to reach to the common people with new vigour. It would be a good idea to especially utilise women’s wing of the party for a door-to-door contact programme. Mahila Congress can play a vital role to reach to every house in the country, spread party ideology, enrol new members and inspire new set of volunteers. Congress Seva Dal, which is practically defunct for almost a decade, could be revived to share the assignment with Mahila Congress in booth management operations.
Youth and student wings of the party also need to be reshaped as to suit the political demands of today. Absence of student union elections in most of Indian universities and colleges cannot be an excuse for non-presence of National Students’ Union of India in the campuses. NSUI should be given new thrust to reach to all universities and colleges– private or government owned. Youth Congress and NSUI have vast scope to be transformed as the leading organisations that occupy major academic space on roundtables and in the areas of issue-based movements on the streets. Giving attention to social media laboratories tactics is important, but ground level physical activities are much more important. Real battles are not fought in the virtual world.
To give a new structure to his party the Congress president also has the responsibility to create, project, empower and protect a number of regional leaders from all walks of life. This will strengthen his national leadership and enhance the pan-Indian roots of his organisation. No political organisation survives for long if it lacks strong and credible faces in regions. Centralisation of political power and running the governments through bureaucrats with keeping the political representatives at bay has been the most disastrous path adopted by most of the Congress chief ministers in the past decades. Ignoring the elected and otherwise influential leaders in governance matters is responsible for Congress rout. Reinforcing the confidence in local leaders with very special focus on rural India could be the most effective driving force for Rahul Gandhi in restructuring his party.

To give a new sTrucTure To congress, rahul gandhi has The responsibiliTy To creaTe, projecT, empower and proTecT regional leaders

Second most important thing for Rahul is to position his party at a pole that is completely opposite to BJP’s. He has been doing it for quite a while now, but he has to make sharper efforts in the coming months. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates have launched a multi-pronged attack against anything that resembles the Congress ideology in the last three and a half years. They have succeeded in confusing the Indian mind in the matters related to economic reforms by creating a perception that BJP is furthering the reform agenda of erstwhile governments. Rahul has to give a new thrust to the fact that his party always had a different social vision while implementing economic reforms and no Congress government after Independence ever favoured centralised corporateled growth model as is the case with Narendra Modi.
Growing disenchantment against the BJP for failing to revive fast declining economy, generate jobs and restore social harmony is at its highest peak. This is the time Rahul Gandhi should repeatedly mention about the Congress party’s age-old tried and tested policy vision to make the people convinced that the only solution to India’s socio-economic stress lies in the Congress model of governance. Party’s think tanks must focus on posing more and more questions about BJP’s economic model.
BJP has successfully injected a feeling in the masses that ‘There Is No Alternative’ to its leadership and policies. This TINA factor has to be completely wiped out. Rahul has fast emerged as an alternative to Narendra Modi during the past months. His performance and final electoral outcome in Gujarat has clearly established him as a formidable leader in times to come. Rahul has also demarcated between those who represent the politics of hate and authoritarianism and the Congress as the caravan of love and compassion. The Congress must assertively make it known that its diplomatic vision has also been different to what Modi government is pursuing. Congress always had a more comprehensive foreign policy. Modi’s domestic politics has portrayed China as an enemy state whereas it is in the interest of India that we maintain cordial relations with both the US and China. Consistency on all these issues will give Rahul an edge over his rivals.

bjp has unforTunaTely successfully injecTed a feeling in The indian masses ThaT ‘There is no alTernaTive’ To iTs leadership and policies

It was a fight between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat in which Rahul came out as a clear winner although his party could not form the government. Gone are the days of 2013-14 when the comparison game between Modi-Rahul was highly tilted in favour of Modi because of a cunningly designed belowthe-belt campaign against Rahul. BJP could manage to win Gujarat somehow, but it has given such a serious jolt to its Mission-150 that Rahul Gandhi is bound to face a fresh phase of personal attacks. Modi &Cowill do everything possible to again paint him as a part-time, reluctant and inconsistent leader.
Therefore, this is the time when Rahul should try everything possible to restore the old sentiments that Congress party and India are inseparable. At the same time he has to take the like-minded forces along with him in the journey to 2019. Allies will play a crucial role in the political climate of coming months and Rahul Gandhi has a very responsible role in framing the shape and depth of their support to Congress. I am sure, Rahul will fit the bill. He has no dearth of personal intelligence and understanding of the issues. He also has no dearth of experience and talent within his own party. Proper utilisation of these resources has tremendous potential to turn the tide one and a half years from now.