Rahul Style Makes Congmen Jittery
Used to lead life without any responsibility and accountability, the Congress rank and file feels the heat with Nehru-Gandhi scion’s ascendancy as party vice-president, writes Renu Mittal
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has gone into active mode. He may not have made any appointments nor sacked anyone since he took over the reins of power of the Congress, but he has certainly put the Pradesh Congress Committees (PCCs) and other senior leaders on red alert.
Sources say that Rahul has called PCC presidents and others and given them three-month deadline to perform or perish. His conversation with them goes something like this, “Bhaiya, I am giving you three months time to deliver, otherwise you will sit at home. I have no dearth of people who can replace you but you have to give results in three months”. Over and out.
He has also decided to set up a committee in each state of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader, the PCC president and some senior leaders who will interact with him on a regular basis and give him feedback on party leaders in the state, the problems being faced and the work that needs to be completed. Various leaders of the state can meet this committee and they in turn will interact with Rahul Gandhi. This is a reply to the numerous complaints being received by his office that party leaders are not able to meet him. His contention is that since he is not able to meet all the leaders, this committee will be an intermediary and would be the go-between, between Rahul and state party leaders.
Along with meeting MPs state wise in Parliament, Rahul Gandhi is also meeting the CLP leader, the PCC president and the AICC general secretary and getting feedback from them on how preparations for the Lok Sabha and assembly polls are going and how the party is expected to perform at the polls. Rahul Gandhi is in favour of candidates being announced three months in advance but more than all other aspects, he wants the party to strengthen itself at the district and block level. He does not tire of making the point that the Congress needs to be energised and rejuvenated at grass-roots level.
But Rahul’s style of working and his insistence on responsibility and accountability has led to PCC presidents pushing the panic button in state after state.
In what is being called by senior leaders as his corporate style functioning and marking of the performance of PCC presidents, Rahul Gandhi has given them a four-page questionnaire which many of them are finding difficult to fill. Teams have been set up at PCC offices to fill up the questionnaire, which needs to be countersigned by the CLP leader, the AICC general secretary and the AICC secretary to ensure that the PCC president is not being economical with the truth!
The first page of the questionnaire deals with the organisational activities. It asks the PCC president since the year he has been on this post, how many PCC meetings have been held and when was the last meeting, when did he hold district and block level meetings and how many such meetings have been held. What demonstrations, dharnas, pradarshans etc have been held in his tenure (mainly for opposition-ruled states) and what activities have been undertaken by the PCC?
Page 2 asks whether a PCC, DCC, BCC executive committees have been set up and whether they are in place, whether booth-level committees have been appointed, how many vacancies are there in these bodies as well as in other boards and trusts of the state and whether chairman and members of various boards have been appointed and their details etc.
Page 3 asks what are the various issues in the state, the local issues and the main political agenda of the state, whether there is a sustained campaign against the state opposition parties and if so how is it being run.
And page 4 asks about the party’s preparations for both the Assembly and Parliament polls and how the state unit is preparing for the polls.
With little scope to skirt the truth, PCC presidents have pressed the panic button. It is learnt that one PCC president at least has left the first two pages blank, while some are approaching DCC presidents with lucrative offers to “increase the number of DCC meetings at least on paper” and in many cases the general secretaries have come to the aid of the PCC presidents asking them to call at least one PCC meeting, when they are showing many more on paper.
Many Congress leaders are upset at the plethora of meetings being held and innumerable questions asked as their comfortable life has been turned topsy turvy. Their contention is that Rahul has destroyed the Youth Congress and now he is all set to destroy the parent Congress party. Giving examples of Lalu, Mulayam, Mayawati and others they contend that leaders are created in the field and on the ground and not through meetings and questionnaires.
Their panic and angst is understandable, said a senior party leader. He said they are used to keeping a few leaders in Delhi happy with many of them having the protection of powerful chief ministers who ensure that they are not disturbed. Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the 15 years she has been at the helm of Congress affairs never had time for the micro-politics and management, which is seen as the hallmark of Rahul Gandhi. She had virtually outsourced the running of the party to a powerful group of men and women around her and they were instrumental in key appointments and disappointments with the Congress president mostly going along with their advice. How they convinced her was an art they had perfected and used to run the affairs of the party.
With the party winning two successive Lok Sabha elections in a row, the emphasis was never on building the party or recapturing the political space which had been ceded to regional players or even the main opposition party but always on how effective the leader was in winning two general elections. In many of the states, the Congress infrastructure has all but vanished but the focus was kept away from those areas and reports of committees appointed after massive defeats were never brought in the public domain and were mainly eye washes.
This was evident from the fact that neither responsibility was fixed nor accountability of the leaders who ran the election campaigns and micro-managed the elections. They were promoted and given more election-going states to manage and the chief ministers who had been defeated at the hustings were “adjusted” as general secretaries in the AICC, given powerful states to control and win, when they could not win their own states.
But as the saying goes, “nothing succeeds like success” and with the UPA in power for almost 10 years now, the focus was mainly on the government and not on the organisation with party leaders used to working on their own terms even as AICC general secretaries were at the beck and call of powerful chief ministers or regional leaders.
But now with Rahul Gandhi continuing to hold series and series of meetings with those in important positions, like general secretaries and secretaries, MPs, chief ministers and PCC presidents to fully understand who is aligned to whom, who is at whose beck and call, how much work is being done and why the Congress is dying at the grass-roots level with senior leaders striking deals for their own survival, never mind the party or what is in its best interest.
With Rahul Gandhi looking at a long-term perspective of putting the best man in the right position and ensuring that he delivers, it is not surprising that the men and the women whose comfort zone have been disturbed are now feeling the Rahul-generated heat with the temperature rising every day.