Rahul’s surgical strike
News analysis

Rahul’s surgical strike

K. Gopalakrishnan

The induction of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyodiraditya Scindia as General Secretaries of AICC did come as a surprise.  Rahul Gandhi gave Priyanka charge of Eastern UP and Jyothiraditya Western Uttar Pradesh indicating his determination to prepare the Congress to put up a strong fight in the state, which his party lost due to various reasons, particularly the withering away of the organization. True it cannot be done in a short time, but it is during in election time that the task of building an organization is ideal, as the people are politically active and when one looks for a party closer to his or her faith, commitments and ideology. But the task is not that simple.

Clearly by chosing Priyanka and Jyotiraditya he hopes to concentrate on the forward community in which the Congress has already a substantial following. Rahul, a Janeudhari, Priyanka, a Vipassana practitioner of the Buddhist faith, and Jyothiraditya from a well known Khsatriya family can improve on the present following in the caste- driven society of Uttar Pradesh. Both leaders are well known and within the Congress overwhelmingly popular. This in itself is a rare feature in Congress: Leaders who are popular and above groups in the state unit. To rebuild, the most important need is close cooperation within the party and willing, sincere workers.

At the strategy level Rahul seems to be attempting to convert the weakness of the party into its strength. Compared to the SP-BSP alliance, Congress is a weak political force in Uttar Pradesh.  But the party has following in the forward community, a section of the Dalits and Minorities. If the Congress contests in a constituency, it can cut into the upper caste votes of the BJP and the Dalit base of the BSP and Minority base of SP in several constituencies.  In other words, the votes polled in favour of Congress can reduce the votes of BJP and the SP-BSP as the party can cut into their vote bases.

This unique situation is what Rahul wants to take advantage of and consolidate the anti-BJP votes in the crucial Uttar Pradesh. A three- cornered contest would benefit the BJP. But a straight fight can be advantageous to the anti-BJP political formation. If the non-BJP parties are serious about defeating the BJP in the LS election, there needs to be political alliance in all the constituencies in the state.  Some believe that there is already hidden understanding, whatever be the political position in public. There could be advantages for the SP-BSP too if an alliance comes through and Priyanka campaigns for them. Further, the understanding with the Congress could lead to additional votes of the upper castes for their candidates. One is not sure. But there is enough time.

Rahul has also through the appointment of two general secretaries for the UP state unit of the Congress and by giving them the charge of elections effected a generational change in the Congress hierarchy in UP. The duo has replaced Ghulam Nabi Azad who was the general secretary, an old guard, in charge of UP. Some analysts believe that the introduction of new, young faces in Uttar Pradesh will be a welcome change in the state as the aam aadmi is tired of faces and speeches of the decades-old leaders of the Congress whose speeches almost sound like the cracked 78 rpm old gramophone records compared to the sound systems of today.

While everyone agrees with the proven record of Jyotiraditya Scindia in organizational skills and managing campaigns successfully, some question the appointment of Priyanka who has a patchy record in campaigning. Rahul apparently has his reasons. In Congress there are only four nationally known and recognised leaders: Sonia Gandhi, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi.  For the extensive travel for the LS campaign Sonia Gandhi’s health condition may not permit it. Dr. Manmohan Singh due to advanced age cannot undertake travel to far and wide areas and take part in intensive campaigns. By inducting Priyanka, a popular figure, she will attract crowds all over India, and Rahul’s burden would be reduced.  Even campaigning in UP alone is no small task. Priyanka could be of help to Rahul in this crucial LS election that is vital to the party.

Another important factor could be the National Herald case against Sonia and Rahul along with few other family friends. If the cases do not go in favour of the family or some problems crop up which come in the way of Rahul taking over the top position, there should be someone from the family who can replace and keep the position within the party. Given the situation, it is better to induct a family member in an important position in the AICC. There is no one other than Priyanka whose image is intact and who has no legal entanglements.

Priyanka being given an important official position will also have other advantages. The Modi government has been alleging fraudulent deals by Robert Vadra, Priyanka’s husband.  In the 56 months of the Modi Government rule there were only allegations and only recently legal proceedings have been initiated.  At this moment registering charges or arrest of Vadra can be interpreted as malicious moves for electoral gains politically to embarrass the party, worried about Priyanka’s mass appeal.

It is true primarily the multi-pronged moves of Rahul are expected to boost the morale of Congressmen in Uttar Pradesh and reactivate whatever is left of the organization. Priyanka’s mass appeal and the organizational abilities of Jyothidaraditya will definitely have an impact in the campaign and results.  One is not sure whether the party can increase its strength in the LS on its own but it is sure to perform well in the elections.  If the Congress-SP-BSP alliance takes shape and fight the elections united, the Parivar will have a lot to worry about notwithstanding the brave claims and taunts of the Modi-Shah duo.  For simply the caste equation then will be against the BJP candidates. The public mood in the Hindi belt too is not favourable if one can be guided by the election results of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatttisgarh.

Outside the Hindi belt too, Priyanka’s entry will have a positive impact, particularly in the Southern states. The impact of her personal appeal in terms of vote will be known only after the election results. The whole hearted welcome extended to her by Congressmen across the country shows that her entry is expected to have a positive response nationwide. With this deft move Rahul has also shown that he is learning the art of political party management fast and is picking up the mood and thinking of the masses in his interactions with the people. The recent changes in the AICC cannot be dismissed as a UP- centric move, but a multi- pronged one. Elections are one side of the story. He has taken another step to effect a generation change in UP which he began slowly but steadily all over India in the last few months and has completed in a few states. The other aspect is that anticipating the moves of the Modi-Shah combine against the party, family and himself Rahul has made a political surgical strike at the Parivar camp.