The Telegraph
Friday , February 8 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress nuts and bolts, not Modi machine
Rahul glued to party basics

New Delhi, Feb. 7: Rahul Gandhi has stuck to his brick-by-brick approach to rebuild the Congress before trying to win people’s confidence, irrespective of Narendra Modi’s big-bang appearance on national stage yesterday.

Rahul has called a meeting of all Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) presidents and Congress legislature party (CLP) leaders on February 15 as part of his efforts to understand organisational problems.

This will be the first such exercise in a long time when leaders from every state will get an opportunity to talk to the party’s new vice-president about organisational and political issues at a conference. Rahul completed a similar interaction with AICC office-bearers on Monday.

Although a section of the Congress has apprehensions about the futility of such interactions and wants Rahul to spend time and energy in reaching out to people directly instead, there are many who believe he is right in focusing on fundamentals.

One Rahul aide told The Telegraph: “A leader cannot pace his activities to suit the demands of 24x7 channels. A party like the Congress has to be handled carefully, with political maturity.”

Many believe Rahul’s primary task is not to dismantle existing leadership structures and say the obsessive focus on a shuffle is uncalled for.

They argue that Rahul has to inject a greater sense of purpose in the party, ensure better bonding among senior leaders and utilise younger elements constructively to energise the organisation. “He is pragmatic and knows the Congress cannot be changed overnight,” the aide said.

There are others who feel Rahul should get cracking after constituting a new team as Modi is advancing with meticulous planning but seem to have failed to influence him.

Some of these leaders had suggested to Rahul at the meeting with the AICC office-bearers that he should end the atmosphere of uncertainty by undertaking the much-awaited shuffle, but he chose to move cautiously and expanded the scope of the consultative process.

The AICC exercise generated great expectations in states and Rahul would have ended up dismaying the PCC chiefs and chief ministers by going ahead with the changes in rules and office-bearers without consulting them.

Although he got a chance to interact with most of these leaders at last month’s Jaipur Chintan Shivir, discussions there were issue-centric and organisational problems got little attention. Most of the state leaders hold the high command responsible for the organisational mess and, hence, Rahul wanted to listen to them.

Senior leaders insist the party is not in a hurry and unmindful of the speed and the content of the Rahul-versusModi discourse in the media.

“There is a long way to go. Every party has the freedom to project its prime ministerial candidate. We will face Modi if he is the leader on the other side but we are not interested in the bullfight the media expect from us. There are a lot of things to politics and governance than a personality clash. Rahul doesn’t have to prove anything; he is a Congress leader and his legacy is known to the country,” a top AICC functionary said.