For most, Priyanka Gandhi is the star campaigner who has taken charge of the two family constituencies of Amethi and Rae Barely. But behind the scenes, she has quietly been slogging for a year to rebuild and re-energize Congress cadres in the Gandhi bastions which saw eight out of 10 assembly segments slip out of their hands in 2102.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra waves to the crowd at an election campaign rally in support of Congress party in Rasulpur, Amethi. PTI/Atul Yadav
That humiliating defeat saw Priyanka take on the role of a micro manager. HT spoke to scores of workers at the block and district level to reconstruct the corporate-style management which they said led to her seeking applications from workers. “She personally interviewed block level candidates,’’ a worker said.
Once the fresh set of workers was in place, Priyanka had training camps organized. “In these camps, we were reminded of the freedom struggle, the family’s contribution to the country and the development schemes undertaken by the UPA government. We were tasked to take the message to each village,’’ said Ashwini Awasthi, a local block leader.
Experts were also called in from Delhi for the workshops. Amongst them: Salman Khurshid, Deepinder Hooda, Sanjay Jha and Suresh Pachauri. Jha said: “We went through key milestones in the party’s history and crucial legislations like MGNREGA, RTI and RTE. The camps were aimed at exposing the workers to the party’s history and ideology.”
Planning commission member Mihir Shah told HT: “As part of our capacity building effort for rural development, we also spoke to some party workers.”
Priyanka Gandhi focused on workers with an aptitude for social work and asked several candidates what kind of social work they did in their villages. “She interacted with booth-level workers in many of the 1,637 booths in Amethi," said Yogendra Yadav, district president. Jha said: “We had tug-of-war contests amongst workers and asked them how they would collaborate when in conflict. Team building was an important aspect of this exercise.”
An important aspect also relates to ensuring voters make it to the booths on April 30 and May 7 when Rae Bareli and Amethi go to the polls. After the 2012 debacle, Priyanka isn’t taking any chances even though voters have preferred to go with the Gandhis in parliamentary elections. She has mapped each booth and block besides taking on Narendra Modi.
This time, when the contest is keener – especially in Amethi where Rahul Gandhi is pitted against AAP’s Kumar Vishwas and BJP’s Smriti Irani – the micro manager has even appointed workers in each village and village cluster. Their task: to take voters to polling stations.