No Job Too Menial for Votecatcher Rahul - The New Indian Express

No Job Too Menial for Votecatcher Rahul

Published: 09th Mar 2014 09:02:19 AM

Rahul Gandhi is stooping to conquer and the Congress party is backing him fully. A confidential note dated March 5 sent out by Congress General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi to all PCC chiefs reveals that the party’s thinking is in sync with its Vice President’s. Rahul has scrupulously identified professional sections that need to be courted and bagged and has been on a mass contact spree since December 2013. Gandhi has acknowledged that the 70 crore Indians doing odd jobs should be targeted to revive sagging fortunes of the 128-year-old party. While meeting porters at New Delhi railway station on February 11, Gandhi said they just need a little help to get ahead. “We want to strengthen the floor beneath this 70 crore people.”

Following his ‘stay-rooted philosophy’, the Congress is looking to connect with at least 34 groups involved in menial jobs. In his letter, Dwivedi asked state leaders and grass-root workers to reach out to these groups largely neglected by other political parties.

“Rahul Gandhi had asked during his speech on January 17, 2014 in Talkatora Stadium that several groups of our society are neglected by the political parties. They are a large part of our society and the UPA government took several initiatives for their welfare.

Rahul Gandhi is also meeting people from these groups across the country and I request all our leaders to ensure interaction with these groups during Lok Sabha campaign,” Dwivedi wrote. Gandhi’s unconventional style of taking feedback and spreading word about initiatives taken by his party and government was visible during a meeting with rickshaw pullers and auto rickshaw drivers in Varanasi on March 2 and fishermen in Maharashtra on March 6, 2014.  He has already addressed rallies in Azamgarh, Varanasi and Mau districts, all hubs of handloom weavers with an adult population over 10,8,000. Gandhi is also expected to meet aanganwadi workers and midwives in Lucknow later this month. Perhaps, knowing that the Congress does not have inspiring leaders in the states who can address popular grievances and convert them into votes, the party is relying more on grass-root leaders for door-to-door campaigns among occupation-based groups which could create the same propaganda effect like AAP’s auto-rickshaw campaign in Delhi.

The groups, which the Congress is targeting during the Lok Sabha campaign, include labourers from schedule castes like dhobis, manual scavengers, safai karmacharis, fisherfolk and more. The 2011 census records the population of Schedule Castes as 20 crore. In a bid to regain a foothold in the tribal belt with a population of approximately 10 crore, Dwivedi has asked workers to connect with forest workers, miners and bidi workers. Out of the 543 Lok Sabha seats, 57 fall in big cities where migrant workers including plumbers, carpenters and drivers have sizeable population. One hundred and forty-four seats are in towns and smaller cities, while at least 342 Lok Sabha seats cover villages with voters mostly involved in agricultural and small businesses.

Plagued by a weak party mechanism and demoralised grassroots workers, in Gujarat, Rahul will focus on salt pan workers based in the Little Rann of Kutch. It will be interesting to see how growing ‘stay -rooted’ policy plays out in the electoral battlefield as the Narendra Modi led-NDA also eyes a major chunk of the electorate from these occupation-based groups.

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