NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi is banking on family friend and technocrat Sam Pitroda to win over urban voters, especially the influential Patels with a strong US connection, to try and tilt the Gujarat polls in the Congress’s favour.
For Congress managers, the benefits of fielding Pitroda are many. He studied in Baroda, heads the US chapter of the Overseas Indian Congress and organised Congress vice-president Rahul’s recent NRI conclaves in the US. Congress insiders acknowledged that the rich Patels in Gujarat were still with the BJP and Pitroda’s overseas connections could help the party make a dent in this crucial segment in a tightly contested election.
Pitroda, who worked as telecom adviser to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and is remembered for bringing computers to India, is also close to Rahul. That is why he is guiding the Congress’s social media strategy for the Gujarat polls.
According to Congress insiders, countering the BJP in urban areas is the biggest challenge, for which Pitroda’s efforts and influence could come in handy. Besides being good at ideation, he has the reputation of a doer.
Pitroda will travel to five cities -- Baroda, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Surat -- to get a feel of what urban Gujaratis, including the youth, expect from the Congress. As part of the plan, small traders, workers and women would be consulted and their inputs included in the poll manifesto.
The manifesto will also indicate how the Congress plans to revive lagging sectors of Gujarat’s economy and bring social inclusion. Pitroda is also connecting with the youth online. “We arranged a live Facebook interaction with Sam three days ago. It got good response,” said a Congress social media manager.
Further, an online link “Your wish, Our commitment” would be launched to crowd source ideas for the “people’s manifesto”, the sources said, adding a similar initiative on WhatsApp would follow. The party is circulating a video online where Pitroda urges Gujaratis in the local language to come out and speak their mind. He has also taken the responsibility of ensuring the Congress manifesto will be implemented in case the party is voted to power, said sources.
Apart from technology and ideas, Pitroda is also helping Congress social media managers stay connected with the party ideology. He has been advising them not to blame the ruling BJP but expose them through facts and figures.
“He tells us that we must stick to facts and party ideology. If we do that, people will listen to us,” said a young social media manager. To counter the BJP’s online warriors, the Congress social media cell is planning a series of videos in Gujarati to convey a mood for change among voters, the sources added.