Congress draws Uttar Pradesh poll lessons

By: | Updated: 29 Feb 2012 10:31 PM

New Delhi: The Congress
leadership sees the Uttar Pradesh election as a unique experience with
vital organisational and political lessons for the future.

miley ya nahin, sabak bahut miley (Whether we get seats or not, we got
vital lessons),” a senior leader told The Telegraph. From
understanding caste complexities to ticket distribution and campaign
management, direct involvement in the field ensured that Rahul and Sonia
Gandhi got to see the real picture, the leader explained.

For the
first time in its long history, the Congress finalised candidates several
months before polling day. The caste and class configuration — backwards
got a large share of tickets, unlike in the past when upper castes would
dominate — shocked even the most liberal party leaders, prompting many
to wonder if Rahul was breaking the social barriers his ancestors had
unwittingly built over the decades.

Finally came the campaign
that has won praise for its sharp focus and energy. The party leadership
has also woken up to weaknesses such as the absence of a credible
state-level leader, strong candidates, committed base votes and
organisational inactivity. It understands that the absence of a chief
ministerial candidate might hurt its prospects badly.

Congress had to rely heavily on leaders like Beni Prasad Verma, P.L.
Punia, Rasheed Masood, Salim Sherwani, Raj Babbar and Raja Ram Pal, who
have all come from other parties. Booth management, too, proved a major
problem and the party may now be compelled to train its workers and create
a cadre network to ensure its supporters come out to vote.

decision to divide the state into specific zones headed by individual
leaders — Mission 85, for the 85 constituencies reserved for SCs &
STs, is an example — proved useful. The party ran three 24x7 call
centres for campaign management, which helped the candidates.

senior leader said: “Rahul has definitely laid the foundation for a
strong performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha. We will not be surprised if our
vote share jumps from the stagnant 8 per cent to around 18-20 per cent
this time, making us one of the key players in state politics. If we can
address our infirmities in the intervening period, we may even emerge as
the strongest contender in the Lok Sabha election.”

leader pointed out that the real message of the transformation Rahul had
sent across in this election is reflected in the party’s outreach to the
most backward castes and candidates from ordinary backgrounds.

message hasn’t spread all over in this election. Those who have noticed
this change in the Congress approach are either viewing it purely as an
electoral strategy or a one-time gimmick by an elitist upper caste party.
Once this message penetrates deeper into rural society, Congress will reap
richer harvest,” he said.

Rahul has said: “Our intention was
to make the Congress stand up on its feet. Once that happens, we will do
the rest.” If Rahul sticks to his promise of working in the state for
eight to 10 years and persists with his caste harmonisation exercise, the
Congress will revive in this vital state that sends 80 members to the Lok
Sabha. But such a possibility will be minimised if the party fares
dismally in this election, winning less than 50 of the total 403 seats.

-The Telegraph, Calcutta

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First Published: 29 Feb 2012 10:31 PM
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