Though his best outing till date was upstaged in the front-page headlines by the Sunanda Pushkar’s 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 the Talkatora Stadium here, Rahul plunged into hectic meetings with PCC chiefs and district-level leaders on Saturday.
This indicates a key strategic element of the Rahul’s campaign for 2014 -- a new openness to the cadres as an operating principle and as a slogan-worthy credo. Team Rahul would make a deliberate effort to demonstrate this openness at various levels -- throwing open and decentralising candidate selection and 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 would be set up, where Priyanka Gandhi would play a signature role, both behind the scenes and on the ground to coordinate and boost Rahul’s campaign. Her participation in the campaign would be visible. The Congress strategists are quite sanguine about the positive effect Priyanka could have as a vote-canvasser in Uttar Pradesh. They would carefully pick and choose a few constituencies where she herself might hit the campaign trail. But the focus would be Rahul-centric, with “sister” playing second fiddle.
The idea is built around the belief that Priyanka could create a vote surge of her own. In a relatively Congress positive seat, a Priyanka appearance could act as an insurance policy. In places with much penetration, she could give the party a positive access to the public mind. Behind-the-scenes, she would play Rahul’s chief campaign manager. Till now, managing his rallies was a logistical nightmare. State-level leaders had always complained that they never get advance notice of an impending Rahul trip. The SPG protocol for Rahul puts limits on the extent to which prior intimation could be given or itinerary details could 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 his roadshows, compared to the excellent crowd management in the NaMo campaign. Now, Priyanka would coordinate this key part and act 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, by abandoning the old-model, where lucky aspirants were essentially pushed by their patrons. (The unlucky thronged the party headquarters at Ashoka Road, sometimes even with suicide on their mind!) The selection of a vast number of fresh, young faces would seek to pre-ensure a degree of winnability. The cadres would be given the opportunity to choose the best candidate by consensus. Thus re-crafted, the process would be a far cry from the days of closed-door decisions and command politics. At the AICC session on Friday, Rahul had said that tickets would not be given to party hoppers but to those who have “Congress in their blood”.