In an attempt to stem its slide ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Congress is deploying a team of party leaders in poll-bound states to “re-establish connect” with the ground and reach out to voters.
Seven states — Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh (November-December), Meghalaya (February) Karnataka (April-May next year), Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan (all September-October 2018) — will go to polls before the next Lok Sabha elections.
The party has been unable to stop the tide of reversals that began in 2013 with a string of defeats in state elections followed by a drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
One of the reasons identified for these debacles was a failure to connect with the masses.
Having realised that the party’s comeback at the national level largely depends on its revival in states, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has started meeting leaders from across the country. Two such meetings in batches of 40-50 leaders have already been held and four more are lined up.
The idea is to form teams of party volunteers who will be deployed in poll-bound states. These volunteers will be asked to assess the ground situation, suggest steps to strengthen the party’s footprint at the grassroots level and take the party’s programmes to the masses.
In the last two meetings — on April 18 and April 21 — the emphasis was also on decentralisation of power and allowing regional leaders to grow. The exercise has also kicked off the party’s preparations for the upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
Gandhi will open his Gujarat campaign with a tribal rally at Dediapada in Narmada district on May 1, the foundation day of the BJP-ruled state. Gujarat and Maharashtra were carved out of the State of Mumbai in 1960.
Out of power in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah’s home state from the past 22 years, the Congress is struggling to dethrone the ruling party.
Chhabildas Mehta was the last Congress CM in the state from 1994-1995. From 1998, the BJP has been in power in the state for the past 19 years, of which Modi ruled for 12.