New Delhi, April 20: The Uttar Pradesh defeat seems to have prompted Rahul Gandhi to widen his ambit and delve deeper into organisational matters, an exercise that will also prepare him for a future role as his party’s supreme leader.
After completing a two-day review to understand the causes of the Uttar Pradesh rout, Rahul has been meeting Congress leaders and workers from across the country to listen to their views on political and organisational issues.
The development is a pointer to two emerging trends within the party: one, Rahul’s growing willingness to step out of the confines of the Youth Congress and Uttar Pradesh; and two, Sonia Gandhi’s slow withdrawal from organisational matters.
Rahul’s recent meetings suggest he is looking beyond the official machinery of office-bearers, entrenched leaders and MPs. He has been meeting loyalists of his late father Rajiv Gandhi, many of whom are no longer in the party mainstream, former MPs and MLAs, and ordinary workers who rarely get the opportunity to talk to central leaders.
There have been instances in recent weeks of Rahul’s office inviting for discussion people who never sought an appointment.
Party sources say Rahul has been holding long meetings with Sonia’s political secretary, Ahmed Patel, to understand the organisation and gather information about old family loyalists.
The exercise will also address a grievance among some leaders that Rahul has not been working in tandem with the parent organisation in his passion to make a difference with youth power. Many senior leaders have sensed a lack of synergy between Rahul’s team and the parent party.
“He is ready to listen to others now. Unlike the past, when he would rely more on the data collected in his computer and seek suggestions on brief points, he now understands the importance of political analysis,” a leader who met him recently said.
Many feel that Rahul, who had done his basics right by taking tips from political scientists such as Zoya Hasan and Sudha Pai, had followed it up by giving too much importance to armchair analyses of issues and statistics.
Now, he seems to have realised that ground realities in this diverse and vast country can be understood best through discussions with those wedded to the grassroots.
He has been asking questions about organisational decline, caste loyalties, mass mobilisation, local-level leadership building, the strengths of the rivals and the voting patterns among the various social groups.
Such exercises can help Rahul build his own, independent network for nationwide information-gathering at a time he is being bombarded with complaints that he is constantly misled by party office-bearers and coteries.
Rahul has also realised that professional agencies’ analyses cannot substitute for political inputs from the grassroots. The poor selection of candidates in Uttar Pradesh, caused by vested interests and apolitical inputs, has rattled both him and Sonia.
During his recent interactions with ordinary party workers, one of the most serious complaints Rahul received was of “gutbandi” (factionalism) at every level in the party in addition to the coterie culture at its highest echelons.
He has been tapping party workers from the states to understand the nature and extent of the “gutbandi” before undertaking the next organisational shuffle.
Rahul knows he will need a closer engagement with leaders from all the states to enhance his own acceptability as the party’s supreme leader. There is a possibility that he would relinquish his assignment as general secretary in charge of frontal organisations sometime soon and take up responsibilities in the parent party.
Although the appointment of new state presidents has begun, big changes are likely only after the end of Parliament’s budget session.