Rahul Gandhi picks CMs, with a little help from a personal message on portal

Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s choice of chief ministers in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh was at least partly driven by the choice of the party’s booth-level workers.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi.(Hindustan Times)
Congress president Rahul Gandhi.(Hindustan Times)
Updated on Dec 14, 2018 12:54 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s choice of chief ministers in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh was at least partly driven by the choice of the party’s booth-level workers.

On Wednesday, even as the buzz around possible CMs increased in tenor, Gandhi asked the party’s data analytics department chairperson, Praveen Chakravarty, to quickly take inputs from workers using the party’s new data backbone, Shakti.

Soon, an audio message from Gandhi was beamed to 240,000 party workers in the three heartbelt states. In a recorded message, Gandhi sought a name for the states’ CM post and also thanked workers for their hard work in the recent elections. The workers were told to speak the name of their choice after a beep.

Party functionaries added that the audio message was not sent to all workers of these three states in the Shakti network but only to “people who worked hard” at the booth level. The party offers tasks through Shakti to judge the level of involvement of a booth-level worker with the party.

Nearly all 240,000 Congress workers responded to the message. The maximum response was sought from Rajasthan.

To be sure, as two senior Congress leaders confirmed on the condition of anonymity, Shakti results was not the sole criteria, but it was an important factor.

Gandhi is also believed to have consulted other senior leaders before taking a call.

Shakti, built earlier this year, is an expanding network of around 4 million booth-level Congress workers. It helps party brass directly interact with dedicated workers.

Also read | Kamal Nath next Madhya Pradesh chief minister; decision on Rajasthan expected today

During the recent assembly elections, Shakti was extensively used to take feedback from grassroots-level workers on different issues, including selection of candidates. Popularity among the booth-level workers was a key factor in candidate selection in different constituencies. The Congress has traditionally sought opinion from its elected lawmakers before picking its chief minister candidate.

In many cases, the MLAs unanimously entrust the Congress president to decide who should be the chief minister.

This time too, in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the newly-elected party MLAs left the CM selection to the “high command”.

“The results were kept secret. Only Gandhi and perhaps Chakravarty knew about it,” said a third Congress leader.

The use of Shakti network even for selection of the chief minister indicates a paradigm shift in the Congress strategy and organisational management. From a party that once relied heavily on the high command culture, the voice from the lowest level of party workers is becoming increasingly important, said the third leader.

Aspiring candidates also get this clear message that it’s not a handful of leaders but also the thousands of faceless workers who wield enough power to decide who will be their leaders, this person added.

“The grassroots-level workers hold the key for any organisation. It is also the responsibility of leaders to interact with these workers and listen to what they say. Giving voice to the innumerable workers and involving them in the decision making process helps the party grow,” said former parliamentary affairs secretary Afzal Amanullah.

The third Congress leader said the party plans to make extensive and more intensive use of the Shakti platform for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Also read | Keep calm: Sachin Pilot, Ashok Gehlot tell supporters ahead of decision on Rajasthan CM

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