Congress workers pin hope on Udaipur emerging as a turning point

A cross-section of anonymous Congress workers speak their mind and share their hopes and concerns about the country and the party

Congress workers pin hope on Udaipur emerging as a turning point


Even as Congress leaders and workers gather in Udaipur to deliberate on the challenges before the country and the party, Congress workers across the country say they are convinced that the country needs the Congress more than ever.

“It is by now clear that Congress is better at governance and its policies were, first grudgingly and then with alacrity, appropriated by BJP, policies ranging from Direct Benefit Transfer, Food security and Aadhaar to MGNREGA. Even the GST was proposed by the Congress first and opposed by BJP,” they asserted without prompting. Return of the Congress is a matter of time, sooner the better for the country, felt many.

They, however, made no attempt to hide their disappointment and frustrations either. “We seem to have abandoned the practice of district and state-level Chintan Shivirs,” say several of them. Such meetings in the past have thrown up unusual and brilliant ideas like the Employment Guarantee Scheme and farmers’ cooperatives, the suggestions made first by little known party workers, they pointed out, reiterating that revival of such meetings at frequent intervals will energise the organisation and help revive the party. This would also enable the workers on the ground interact with state and central leaders, many of whom remain inaccessible, they complained.

Poor communication by the party remains a sore point with many. “People confided that in 2019 the party’s manifesto was released very late and they did not quite understand what was being promised under NYAY—a minimum income guarantee,” said several party loyalists. With mainstream media blacking out the party’s activities and pushing a one-sided narrative, it is clear that the party cannot bank on the media, felt many.

What are the alternatives?

Congress workers freely admit that a large number of them are not tech savvy and are unable to use smart phones, text or email. The poor, the party’s largest segment of supporters, are marginalised and struggling, they point out. Communication is not a priority for them. They are also the segment which gets left out in interactions. An effective two-way communication is urgently needed, they added.

Besides the partisan media, there are other worries. Aggressive campaigns by the BJP, they say, has convinced large sections of the people that it is invincible. BJP also has access to unlimited funds. With elections increasingly becoming capital intensive, funding is a worry and a dejected mid-level functionary admitted as much. “We do not get funds any more, corporates are far too afraid to associate with us, frightened that central agencies will be used against them,” he volunteered.

Aggressive and often unethical poaching by the BJP of elected Congress legislators, said some, had demoralised the party ranks. “We never quite know who is going to jump ship and join the BJP. It becomes all the more difficult for the party’s rank and file to ensure the victory of candidates who might decide after winning that BJP is a better bet, they pointed out. Administering oaths before the election, as was done in Goa, does not quite inspire confidence among the workers or the even the people, they added.

Some workers agonise over the role of the RSS, an unregistered body but an undeniable presence which propels the BJP. “The RSS has established a chain of NGOs, schools, and is heavily into media; how does one counter it on the ground?” wondered a worker who mused if Congress too should turn into a cadre-based party!

RSS pracharaks do campaign hard on the ground and have systematically made inroads into homes, even those homes where they were once not welcome, he pointed out. It helps if people are there at your hour of need with advice, recommendations and their sheer presence. The social connections of the RSS cannot be countered by ideology or political rhetoric alone, he felt.

“I know my views are not popular in party circles, but I do feel strongly that this is an area we have ignored,” he exclaimed.

An effective strategy to counter BJP and Narendra Modi also seems to be weighing on their mind. Corruption, price-rise, poor governance— nothing, they admit, have shaken its supporters’ faith in BJP. While the partisan media and relentless campaigning through fake news and aggressive lying partly explains the phenomenon, Congress workers wonder what more they can do to expose the BJP.

“Our leaders have spoken inside and outside Parliament. Congress workers have hit the streets. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra received stupendous crowd support during the campaigning in Uttar Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi drew massive crowds this past week in Telangana and Gujarat. The IYC has been at the forefront of providing relief to people; our leaders have been raising red flag on issues of public interest. But with Parliament not functioning and with the media and the judiciary half-deaf, if not totally blind, how do we reach out to the people,” is the sentiment among a cross section of the party workers.

The Chintan Shivir at Udaipur may not come up with all the answers. But Congress workers hope it will settle some of the confusion in their mind and reassure them with some positive message.

(With inputs from Lucknow, Patna, Chandigarh, Delhi & Mumbai)

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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