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5 Ways Rahul Gandhi Can Revive Congress Ahead Of Crucial UP Polls

The big question is: will the Congress party lift the veil of secrecy regarding handing over the reins to Rahul Gandhi?

It seems that the Grand Old Party simply needs to shut down and start all over again -- or its members need launch a new outfit under a different banner like New Congress Party or some such! The prospect of an imminent revival of the party appears bleak at present. The most plausible reason for floating a new political set up is that there is no sign that conditions will meaningfully improve any time soon. Congress has yet to conduct any serious analysis into the causes of its waning public support, political analysts say.

But the big question is, will the Congress lift the veil of secrecy regarding handing over the reins to Rahul Gandhi? With party president Sonia Gandhi broadly hinting at retirement, possibly by year-end, pressure is mounting for Rahul's formal elevation as the party's face for the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls in 2017. Although he entered politics almost a decade ago, the 45-year-old bachelor has often seemed uncomfortable in his public role, quoting his mother, who described power as "poison". However, many a Congress politicians privately grumble about Rahul and his lack of leadership abilities.

Pro-poor image
In the present political scenario, the Gandhi scion must recognise that politics is nothing but perception, and state elections tend to revolve around state issues. The Congress MP has effectively painted the Narendra Modi-led government as 'pro corporate', 'anti-poor', 'anti-farmer' and a 'suit-boot ki sarkar' in a stinging allusion to the prime minister's expensively monogrammed suit, which was later auctioned off to contain the damage it had done to his image. The Congress must continue to play on its successes in countering the Modi government within the Rajya Sabha and outside Parliament, on the land acquisition Bill and farmers' distress.

Dalit votes
How Rahul Gandhi handles the organisation will be crucial for the Congress's survival. The Congress must try and win back the confidence and support of the people in general and social groups in particular. The mandir-mandal agitations whisked away its Brahmin-Muslim-Scheduled Caste support in Uttar Pradesh, while it lost its traditional Dalit support base to the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party. Rahul has kept the pressure up on the government over Rohith Vemula's suicide. But his party's greatest failing in Uttar Pradesh was lack of outreach to the backward castes that account for nearly 35 per cent of the electorate. One key reason for the Congress's desperation to woo Dalits is the party's miserable performance in constituencies with large Scheduled Caste populations. Of the 131 Lok Sabha seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the BJP won 66 and the Congress won merely 12 in the 2014 general election.

Bridge the gap between old and new
Quite a few commentators and media columnists are of the view that the Congress has not been able to set its house in order after the 2014 debacle in the parliamentary election. There are countless issues to be resolved: mistrust between party veterans and Rahul's team, lack of credible leadership in states, little motivation for party workers, communication restricted to Modi-bashing and so on. Senior Congress leader Gurudas Kamat's decision to quit the party has again brought into focus the high command's declining capacity to manage conflicts. Addressing the issue of disconnect between the senior leaders and the new generation should be on top of Rahul's Uttar Pradesh poll agenda.

Alliance with BSP
By backing the Congress at the last moment in the Uttarakhand assembly, BSP boss Mayawati gave the message that she is against the BJP. The party's move in Uttarakhand has sent out a message among its voters that the party is committed to stopping the BJP from coming to power in UP. According to report in Sroll.in, a BSP-Congress alliance for Assembly elections in UP is the last thing the BJP or the ruling Samajwadi Party would like to see. For, such an alliance is potent enough to carve for itself a formidable vote base, consisting of a majority of Dalits and Muslims as well as a section of upper castes, leaving the BJP and the SP to play an Other Backward Classes-centric politics in the state.

Youth power
Judging by its past history, it would be hasty to write-off the Congress. Yet, it would be unwise to underestimate the seriousness of the political challenges that confront it. Rahul could reach out to the youth, many of whom are idealistic and discomfited by the BJP's extremism, and convince them that their future was tied to returning India to its liberal, Constitutional roots.

Uttar Pradesh is key to the political calculations of the Congress in its bid to regain lost electoral ground. All is not lost. Setbacks are common in electoral politics. So are comebacks. The battle for 2017 is open.


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