The Telegraph
Thursday , November 5 , 2015
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Cong looks to BJP election model

- Party likely to adopt 'micro-level booth management' strategy of rival

Women after casting their votes in Assam. File picture

New Delhi, Nov. 4: The Congress will adopt "micro-level booth management" in Assam in the polls next year, apparently inspired by the BJP's Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat models for booth-level management.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will enthuse workers of the party with a visit to Assam on November 26-27 when he will kick off the election campaign. Elections are due around April next year.

In the run-up to the visit, Rahul had sought from the Assam PCC a grassroots-level report on functioning of the party in Assam. Assam PCC president Anjan Dutta today handed over that report to Rahul at the Congress MP's 12 Tughlak Lane residence here.

"The report mentions the Congress's strategy of micro-level booth management for the Assembly elections in Assam," said a source. A Congress MP from Assam said the nomenclature is new but the party always had a grassroots network during polls.

At least 20 Congress workers would be placed in every booth and interact with families of voters to ensure voting in favour of the party. There will also be hundreds of booth committees of Congress workers, many of which have already been formed.

Micro-level booth management is a term mostly used by cadre-based parties like the BJP, which used it successfully in Madhya Pradesh in 2013 and Gujarat last year, supported by RSS cadres. "It is the RSS that does these things for the BJP, but in Assam Congress has a well-oiled machinery," said the senior Congress leader.

The Madhya Pradesh model was first introduced by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Anil Madhav Dave, although, according to a BJP leader, the concept was first thought of by Kushabhau Thakre.

Party workers in Gujarat were structured in a hierarchy that started from a constituency guardian (called Lok Sabha seatvali or guardian) who monitored a cluster of Assembly constituencies. The structure would narrow down to a pramukh and a boothvali. The pramukh was a BJP worker put in charge of the 40-odd voters on every page of the electoral rolls.

He would bond with the voters in the run-up to the polls and on polling day motivate them to come out and vote. The boothvali was at the other end, coordinating with him and discussing last-minute hitches like missing names on the list at the booth.

"We are not necessarily taking a page out of the BJP because we already have our network, only the nomenclature is new," said the Congress leader. The concept was discussed at a meeting with Rahul Gandhi on October 28 where the party constituted various election committees for Assam.

With a long presence in the state, the Congress feels it has a network of workers that could ape a cadre-based model. To begin work, the party's observer for Assam elections, C.P. Joshi, and his deputy Avinash Pandey will visit each of the 126 Assembly constituencies before year-end, according to sources.

Another party stalwart, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has been entrusted with the job of holding zonal minority conferences across the state. With the BJP as the big challenge, the Congress also has to wrest its minority vote bank from the Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), which has been resurgent and is likely to increase its tally further in the Assembly elections in the wake of polarisation allegedly attempted by the BJP.

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