‘Systemic Inertia Has Corroded the Organisation’: An Open Letter to Priyanka Gandhi From a Congress Worker
It pains me to hear that you hold the party workers responsible for the defeat in the 2019 general election.
Dear Priyanka ji,
It pains me to hear that you hold the Congress karyakarta/volunteer, responsible for the party’s dismal showing in the just concluded general elections. Perhaps your disappointment is misdirected and misplaced — a volunteer is just as effective or ineffective as the people who directly handle him and the narrative that he is asked to promote.
The loyal Congress karyakarta has no control over the narrative or the whims of his immediate interface with the party and so the drift continues upwards.
I remember, post the 2014 debacle, when for nearly a year, only rare senior or mid-level leaders were willing to stick their neck out, it was the ordinary karyakarta, most of them not even formal members of the party, that kept fighting on, without any recognition or direction from the organization.
The Congress was in power for 10 years from 2004 to 2014, largely due to smart alliances in 2004 and on the back of pro-people policies in 2009. That should have been the best time to strengthen the organisation, but we let it drift. We should have started rebuilding the organisation in 2014, instead we went into deep coma and started showing signs of life only in late 2015. The karyakarta is not responsible for that.
Office-bearers are appointed and they are responsible for working on the ground along with the Congress karyakarta. If the office-bearers prefer to remain in their air conditioned offices, the karyakarta again isn’t responsible.
Priyanka ji, it isn’t possible for a humble karyakarta to make the various AICC departments work efficiently, the ordinary karyakarta can’t do a thing, but watch aghast when state satraps indulge in internecine bloodletting, trying to cut each other down to size; it isn’t the job, nor is it possible for a karyakarta to bring together feuding satraps or make AICC departments do the job they’ve been appointed to do.
If a PCC President is inept, everything from booth level upwards suffers and the karyakarta who is emotionally invested in the Congress, can only wring his hands in frustration. The responsibility to appoint or remove an inept PCC does not rest with the karyakarta.
When Congress lost Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in 2014, aggressive revival plans and intense mass contact programs were the need of the hour. But they never came. We won a state election in Bihar, on the back of a smart alliance, but the organisation remains weak. Similar is the case in most states be it West Bengal, Maharashtra or Uttar Pradesh. Why would a voter vote for us if we approach him only during elections? Most of the time, we aren’t able to approach the voter even during elections and it isn’t because the karyakarta is lagging. It is because the person, who is the interface between him and the party, has got used to arm chair politics.
On the narrative part, perhaps it is time Congress dumped caste and moved on to class-based politics, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s policies as prime minister helped create a huge middle class. The middle class and a class of people who aren’t quite in the middle yet but are above the technically accepted poor levels, form the bulk of the population today. These are aspirational people who have moved on from caste-based issues, their issues and needs are different.
Congress needs to address these people urgently. Remember that it was the middle class which catapulted Congress to power in 2009. Instead we came up with a generic scheme NYAY. By itself, NYAY was a good promise, but it should have been a specifically-targeted promise and not a generic one-size-fits-all scheme. Please let us realise that promises to rural and urban India need to be different, needs of the BPL and aspirational people are different and we need to address each one of them separately. Again, the karyakarta has no say in setting the narrative.
Priyanka ji, I am aware that hindsight has a lot of wisdom, but systemic inertia has corroded the organisation and this cannot be rectified by the karyakarta. We cannot defeat the BJP till the organisation gets rid of this systemic inertia. New, young faces with the hunger to beat the BJP and the stamina to be on the streets among the people, for the next five years, are the need of the hour. Twelve crore voters reposed faith in our narrative, we need to respect their sentiments and fight to win in every state election between now and 2024. Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand will be the first to go, the karyakarta remains ready, waiting for our leaders to lead.
I hope you will take this as honest feedback from a concerned supporter.