The Bugle Blows - The New Indian Express

The Bugle Blows

Published: 19th Jan 2014 08:42:40 AM

Though his best outing till date was upstaged in the front-page headlines by the Sunanda Pushkar death, Rahul Gandhi and his team have launched a full-scale campaign for the 2014 general elections. Carrying forward the momentum from his televised speech at the AICC session at New Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium, Rahul plunged into hectic meetings with PCC chiefs and district-level leaders on Saturday.

 This indicates a key strategic element of the Rahul campaign for 2014: a new openness to the cadres as an operating principle and as a slogan-worthy credo.

Team Rahul will make a deliberate effort to demonstrate this openness at various levels—throwing open and decentralizing candidate selection and the second, a bottom-up approach feeding into policy. Both steps are meant to thwart criticism of dynastic rule by creating a strong impression of a responsive, interactive structure.

A new tactically aware war room will be set up, where significantly Priyanka Gandhi will play a signature role, both behind the scenes and on the ground to coordinate and enhance Rahul’s campaign. Her participation in the campaign will be visible. Congress strategists are quite sanguine about the positive effect Priyanka can have as a vote-canvasser in Uttar Pradesh. They will carefully pick and choose a few constituencies where she herself may hit the campaign trail. But the focus will be Rahul-centric, with “sister’’ playing second fiddle.

 The idea is built around the belief that Priyanka can create a vote surge of her own. In a relatively Congress positive seat, a Priyanka appearance can act as an insurance policy. In places with much penetration, she can give the party a positive access to the public mind. Behind-the-scenes, she will play Rahul’s chief campaign manager. Till now, managing Rahul’s rallies had been a logistical nightmare. State-level leaders had always complained that they never get enough advance notice of an impending Rahul trip.  The SPG protocol for Rahul puts limits on the extent to which prior intimation can be given or itinerary details can be made public. This routinely left state leaders with insufficient time to arrange good turnouts at the rallies, creating a poor impression in the public mind about Rahul roadshows, in comparison to the excellent crowd management in the NaMo campaign. Now Priyanka will coordinate this key part of what is looking like a presidential-style campaign, acting as a bridge between the core team and state-level leaders. In such a heavily televised poll campaign, this not only changes the chemistry at the local level but is a vital factor in creating a popular momentum.

Team Rahul is also hoping to make a big statement with a more democratised candidate selection.


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