NEW DELHI: Realising that erosion is grassroots support has been a key factor in its sliding electoral performance over the years, the Congress is now focusing big time on booth-level fortification.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has asked state units to strengthen the party at the booth level to prepare it to take the BJP head-on in the 2019 national polls. Rahul himself will address a gathering of Janmitras—men and women who will coordinate party activities—at around 45,000 polling booths in Gujarat next month.
“These Janmitras will be in regular touch with the local voters, brief them about party activities and give us feedback on their problems,” Gujarat Congress chief Amit Chavda told The Sunday Standard.
“We, too, have launched the ‘mera booth, mera gaurav’ drive, linking the issue with voter pride,” Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot told this paper, adding that the drive has charged up party units across districts. According to party insiders, gaps in party organisation at the booth level has been identified as a major area where the Congress needs to shore up if it wants to defeat the BJP in either the state polls or the national elections.
Whether it was Karnataka recently, or Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat in 2017 or Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in 2013, booth-level supervision was always flagged as an area of concern by the party managers. “We understood our shortcoming and started addressing the problem,” a senior AICC functionary said.Both Gujarat and Rajasthan leaders have launched extensive drives to train the booth managers and raise their confidence levels. “The point is to give them a sense of ownership and make them part of decision making,” said a senior AICC functionary.
Besides Rajasthan and Gujarat, efforts are also afoot in MP and Chhattisgarh, where Assembly polls will be held later this year, to strengthen the Congress organisation at the booth level.
Party strategists recalled how similar initiatives taken in Karnataka saved the day for the Congress. An elaborate plan chalked out in Uttar Pradesh remained largely on paper as the party failed to enthuse the voters.
“Bringing the voter to the polling station on the day of voting is the most crucial part of poll strategy. Half the battle is won or lost at the booth, though high-pitched campaigns help create a pro-atmosphere,” said a Congress strategist. “There are no easy ways of going about it and no short cuts.”