Rahul shuts out top tier,listens to lower rungs in Gujarat diagnosis

Factionalism,favouritism to blame for defeats; he promises bottom-up change

Written by Syed Khalique Ahmed | Ahmedabad | Published: October 6, 2013 4:10 am

Rahul Gandhi chose to receive feedback directly from the lower rungs of his party in Gujarat this week,keeping PCC chief Arjun Modhwadia,Leader of Opposition Shankersinh Vaghela and former CLP leader Shaktisinh Gohil out of his meetings with block and district level leaders and workers.

Rahul,who has said infighting,and not the BJP,posed the greatest challenge to his party in Gujarat,asked the middling and lower rungs of the state leadership why the Congress could not get the relatively few extra votes that might have stopped Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s victory march in the December 2012 Assembly elections.

Sources present at the meetings said,Rahul had argued that the BJP’s voteshare (47.9 per cent) was 9 percentage points more than the Congress’s (38.9 per cent),and,therefore,an extra 5 percentage points at the BJP’s cost would have been enough for the Congress to go through.

The Congress has been out of power in Gujarat since 1995,and has experimented with leadership from even old BJP hands like Vaghela without success. In 2012,top Congress leaders like Modhwadia,Gohil and Siddharth Patel,son of former chief minister Chimanbhai Patel,lost. Rahul is reported to have estimated during his meetings in Gujarat that “at least 15 factions” in the Congress had been working to cancel each other out.

Rahul met party functionaries from South and Central Gujarat on Thursday and with those from Saurashtra and North Gujarat on Friday. The state executive meeting that followed in Rajkot was attended by Ahmed Patel,political secretary to Sonia Gandhi,AICC general secretary in charge of UP Madhusudan Mistry,and AICC general secretary in charge of Gujarat Gurudas Kamat.

Patel is learnt to have suggested that the Congress must begin to identify candidates for 2014 right away,and that the party leadership must listen to workers “who did not have the means to go to Delhi or even Ahmedabad to make their voice heard”.

Rajendrasinh Jadeja,president of the Congress’s Gondal taluka unit,said Rahul had said that even a small improvement would lead to victory. “He told us that if the BSP can get power (in UP) by securing 30 per cent votes,why we can’t improve our vote-share by five percentage points to win in Gujarat,” Jadeja said.

Party leaders present at the meetings said that Rahul sought answers to three questions: why the party had been losing repeatedly,why it was doing especially badly in cities,and what could be done about it.And the broad answers,apparently,were: factionalism,high levels of indiscipline arising out of bad choices in distributing tickets,and favouritism that had distanced the party from workers.

Rahul was learnt to have been told that district- and taluka-level office-bearers were not consulted,and leaders chose candidates only with a view to accommodate all factions. Had candidates been chosen better,the Congress would have won at least 105 (of the 182) seats in the assembly polls.

Polarisation along communal lines was the reason for the loss of support in urban areas,Rahul was told. He appeared visibly disturbed on hearing this,sources said.

According to insiders,Rahul stressed on a “bottom-up” approach to rejuvenate the party organisation.

“Rahulji said that even a taluka president would have some power in party matters and that those workers working hard would get due recognition. He also made it clear that indiscipline would not be tolerated,” Brijesh Merja,president of the Rajkot district unit,said after meeting the party vice-president.

Naushad Solanki,spokesperson of the Surendrangar district unit,said,“He told us that he now knows what ails the Congress in Gujarat. But this would change. Views of district leaders and local workers would be taken into account while distributing tickets.”

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