The poll-bound Congress has given a silent burial to another thrust initiative of its vice-president Rahul Gandhi: scripting poll manifesto through consultations with the masses.
Instead, for the upcoming elections in four states, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir, the Congress returned to its age-old style of drafting manifestos — some central leaders prepared the manifestos.
The party has already done away with Gandhi’s idea of holding US-style primaries to pick candidates for the upcoming assembly polls. For the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, wide-ranging consultation over manifesto was one of the major changes in the Congress’ campaign style. Gandhi had met different stakeholders—ranging from railway porters from New Delhi to salt pan workers in Gujarat before drafting the manifesto.
“We have returned to Pranab Mukherjee school (on drafting manifesto). Some suggestions came from the state units but more or less, everything was decided centrally,” said a Congress leader. Mukherjee, before he became the President, had led the preparations of almost all Congress manifestos between 1977 and 2009 with the help of a select few associates.
Congress sources, however, refuted suggestions that these steps were pointers to Gandhi’s diminishing authority. “He remains our leader. Everything is done with his full consent and support,” a party leader added.
Ever since Gandhi had become party general secretary in 2007, he ushered in several reforms, including elections in youth and students’ wings of the party and giving tickets to young candidates in constituencies where the Congress lost consistently. While the intra-party elections were a success, the experiment on tickets to youth failed miserably.
Gandhi’s backing of government projects too, have yielded mixed results. While the self-help group movement for women in UP was a success, he failed to give the necessary push to the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme.