Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Nov. 28: A formal announcement making Rahul Gandhi the Congress functional head is inexplicably delayed but he has already taken charge of organisational work, beginning his new job by focusing on states where the party is not in power.
Rahul’s reluctance to lead the party’s campaign in Gujarat had triggered speculation on his resolve to face challenges after the debacle in Uttar Pradesh but his aides contest the perception. They insist he is fully committed to using his time and energy to strengthen the party across the country instead of devising quick-fix tactics to win elections.
“His decision to focus on perennial problem areas of the party first shows his mindset,” a young minister said.
In the past few days, Rahul has been meeting leaders from such regions and AICC general secretaries looking after these states to examine political and organisational issues and to explore means of reclaiming ground.
Rahul held discussions with leaders from Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Bengal. He already had an exhaustive two-day session on Uttar Pradesh some time ago.
These states have around 350 Lok Sabha seats and the Congress at present has just over 80 members from these regions. Sources say the party has set its sight on at least 90 more constituencies in these states where it can put up a good fight along with existing or new allies.
Rahul is also exploring the possibility of new alliances, asking these leaders for ideas and the long-term consequences of entering into partnership with certain parties.
Suggestions like dividing Bengal into political zones with separate supervisors on the lines of Uttar Pradesh, alliance with Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan in Bihar, measures to win back Muslims in some vital states, promoting younger leaders and stronger campaigns to encash central welfare schemes have been placed before him.
Many leaders bluntly listed the reasons for the decline of the party in their states, with some even blaming the high command.
A leader said: “Rahul is also showing interest in historical perspectives, listening intently to the causes of organisational decay over the decades, unlike in the past when he would show impatience and dislike for details and ask for bullet-point quick presentations.”
Another leader said: “He is asking a lot of questions and trying to go to the root of the problems. It is clear he will make future plans now.”
The leaders said Rahul wanted to know how the Congress should proceed in Bengal, what restricted the growth of the party and how the Trinamul Congress was likely to perform on its own.
Rahul enquired about the unity of purpose among senior leaders in Madhya Pradesh and the reasons for tribals tilting towards the BJP in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. He was “extremely concerned” about Bihar and Odisha where the party’s decline has been irreversible.
Rahul has asked these leaders “to prepare for the next election”, although they insist such an eventuality will not take place in the next few months. “He is asking us to work hard and be ready,” a leader said.
FDI vote impasse
Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath today met BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj in an effort to break the House impasse.
Jaitley and Sushma iterated the BJP’s stand and asked for a discussion on FDI in multi-brand retail with a vote.
“How will we express our views until and unless voting takes place? We asked the government why it had not agreed for voting earlier although it is assured of the numbers,” Sushma said.
Her point was the government, even if it lacked numbers, should opt for voting because it would not fall if the decision was voted against. “Only the FDI decision will have to go. If a majority of the members are against the decision, the government should abide by it,” she argued.
Nath claimed that more members preferred a discussion without voting than with one. Asked if the government was prepared for voting, he said: “We are not averse to one.”