Can Rahul Bridge The Elite-Grassroots Gap?

Most opposition leaders, including  Narendra Modi, have declared that the Congress wants to keep the country poor and ill-fed so that Rahul can consequently take pictures with the poor and use them for poll campaigns. The media too had been far from kind to Rahul’s version of poverty politics and has slammed the exploitative nature of his actions…


can-rahul-bridge-the-elite-Rahul Gandhi doesn’t have Narendra Modi‘s grassroots advantage. Coming from a lineage that is synonymous with political elitism in India, every move the Gandhi heir makes to connect with the grassroots, even if it is in keeping with the rulebook of Indian politics, is shred apart as a shameful display of his social privilege.
So, when Gandhi decided to spend a day in a poor farmer’s house in Amethi as a part of his poll blitzkrieg, he was immediately taken apart for being showy, so what if gimmick is the middle name of all Indian politicians. In fact, his stay at the farmer’s house has become the BJP’s favourite dartboard. Most opposition leaders, including Narendra Modi, have declared that the Congress wants to keep the country poor and ill-fed so that Rahul can consequently take pictures with the poor and use them for poll campaigns. The media too had been far from kind to Rahul’s version of poverty politics and has slammed the exploitative nature of his actions.
Gandhi has since retraced his steps but with the Congress’ electoral thrust being its programmes to fight poverty , Rahul will simply have to find ways to reach out to the grassroots while making sure his prince-with-the-golden-spoon avatar doesn’t show itself in his efforts. And what better way to start connecting than within the party itself? Placed sharply in contrast with the BJP, which decided to gag Advani and anoint Modi as their Prime Ministerial candidate, reports suggest that Rahul Gandhi has promised to reach out to the juniormost and newest members of his party to take their opinion while nominating a candidate. He is said to have cast off the party’s old ways and said that Delhi will not have the final say in nominating candidates. A report in a national daily quotes a Congress leader from Maharashtra:
“When it comes to selecting party nominees, the old system of Delhi choosing them for you will have to go. You will have a say and your views will be taken into consideration before allotment of party tickets.”
Gandhi, has showed signs of desiring to straighten out the party organisation from the grassroots right with the launch of Khidkee, which was supposed to be a platform for all factions of the Congress to interact and be in touch with the party high command. The other roadblock to a well-organised party devoid of a pre-decided pecking order is nepotism. Rahul trying to abolish it might be fairly ironical, but, in the run-up to the polls he has at least made the right noises by saying candidate will be decided purely on merit and hence suggesting that aspiring Congress MPs fill up an elaborate application form. Then again, he reportedly has put a monitoring process in place in which all AICC secretaries will be required to submit a work-list every month to Gandhi himself.
The measures seem reasonably interesting, on the face of it. But then come the riders. Khidkee, Rahul’s pet social media project, has turned out to be a damp squib – while the idea behind it was interesting, there was no consolidated effort to execute it. It has done nothing to bridge the party elite-party grassroots divide. While several district-level unions have joined the party and turned into the high-command worshipping platform, there is not even one valuable blog/address by any senior leader. Similarly, no one knows who will evaluate the five-page application forms that Congress candidates will supposedly fill.
No one also knows what process will be involved in getting the Congress high command to consider the opinion of the lowest party rungs while nominating candidates. And it is next to impossible to imagine Rahul Gandhi sitting and sifting through activity reports submitted by AICC secretaries every month – it is not known whether he has put a team and technology dedicated for the job. And if the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections is a template to judge the influence of Rahul’s politics of poor, it can be safely said, his politics is yet to grow teeth. In 2007, the Congress won 22 seats in the UP Assembly elections, after Rahul’s intense campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress’ vote-share went up by just 3 percent and seats by 6 to stand at 28. And if Rahul’s grassroots outreach programme within the party continues to stay on just paper, the national polls might just replicate the Congress’ unimpressive fortunes in UP.
– Firstpost : Why Rahul can’t bridge the elite-grassroots gap in Congress

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