TOO SLOW FOR PARTY?
New Delhi, March 22: The Manmohan Singh government is confident of completing its full term till May 2014 but many Congress members from the Lok Sabha have already begun to worry about the next general election and want Rahul Gandhi to immediately move to the battlefield instead of wasting time in meetings.
The Lok Sabha MPs are generally raising three points about Rahul’s approach: his obsession with rules and methods, his emphasis on youth and his failure to build a top-class political team to assist him.
Many MPs told The Telegraph in informal conversations during the Parliament session that went into a recess today that Rahul had already committed a blunder by not joining the government and should not commit another by getting lost in long-term goals.
A veteran said: “He should not get bogged down in drawing-board strategy sessions and in reforming the political culture at this stage. The immediate priority of blocking the BJP from returning to power sets no lesser goal for him. He should have continued his campaign in Uttar Pradesh despite the setback. He did a tremendous job in the Assembly election and had he stuck to his promise of staying put in Uttar Pradesh, we would have won 40 seats in the Lok Sabha elections.”
Another MP asked: “What is this youth-youth…? We are not going into a playground. There is no substitute for experience. He should create a strong team. Indiraji had an A-class team. He should choose some who know the system, some who are masters of election management and some who are true intellectuals. Let them make strategy and Rahul should reach out to the masses as only he has the charisma. He should create new leaders in states and get cracking instead of wasting time in closed-door meetings.”
Similar suggestions were given to Sonia Gandhi by leaders from election-bound Karnataka who wanted Rahul to camp in the southern state till the vote to ensure the BJP’s exit. They want Rahul to tour the entire state as any failure in Karnataka would seal the Congress’s fate for the 2014 polls.
Most leaders expect the Congress to regain power in Karnataka and set the tone for the 2014 parliamentary battle. The next round of Assembly elections later this year is in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi where the BJP has a clear edge.
Rahul has been working on selection through the committee he heads for election preparedness but his connect with the masses has weakened after the Uttar Pradesh election. He created a mechanism to manage the Karnataka polls a couple of days ago, signalling a systemic change in approach which is being widely welcomed.
On Rahul’s advice, Sonia constituted a special group to “co-ordinate and monitor” the Assembly election in Karnataka. The group, headed by A.K. Antony, includes Ambika Soni, Vayalar Ravi, Luizinho Faleiro and Jitendra Singh. The general secretary in-charge, in this case Madhusudan Mistry, the PCC president and the CLP leader have been made ex-officio members of this group.
A screening committee used to be formed for selection of candidates in the past but it did not have a wider mandate of managing the election. Sources said this mechanism would reduce arbitrariness and ensure greater accountability.
Rahul felt after the Uttar Pradesh election that the process of candidate selection was faulty and even campaign was not planned properly. This committee will now have its task cut out and the outcome will also be a test for this new experimentation.