Sunday, May 18, 2014

Humbled by the Mandate- Thoughts Unlimited





The people of India have given their mandate- strong and decisive. The Congress party has been reduced to its historical low. The Congress party is humbled by the massive verdict given by the people of India in the favour of Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janta Party.


As a supporter, I am more than willing to own up to the fact that the party which I supported made mistakes after mistakes and was simply out of touch with the reality. Still, we should take some solace with the fact that more than 10.6 Crore people have voted for the Congress (19.3% of voters)


There is no level to rock bottom. The Congress party has touched rock bottom, and it will only go upwards from here. A lot of hard work and commitment is required to do that.

Some Factoids


As a staunch Congress supporter on social media, I agree that there was a ‘Modi wave’ which the Congress party could not even see publically. They could not see, because they were simply out of touch with the reality. Narendra Modi seem to have got the 7th biggest mandate in the history of India 
(refer Figure 1)

Figure 1 Compiled by Sheryas SP


Some misinformation is being spread that this time the electorate have totally wiped off the opposition too by its verdict. Respecting the wise judgement of the people of India, if we look back, there have been atleast 7 such instances where the opposition has been relegated to a lower digit than Congress’ present tally of 44

The Congress party still can have its leader of the opposition. (Refer:http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140517/jsp/nation/story_18352326.jsp#.U3ietfmSxPw)


Year
Party
Opposition Tally
1951
CPI
16
1971
CPI (M)
25
1957
CPI
27
1962
CPI
29
1984
TDP,BJP
30,2
1980
LokDal
41
1967
Swatantra Party
44




Interesting Facts 



- 45 Crore hits on Election Commission website on vote counting day, the highest number of hits on an Indian website on a single day


- Every third elected MP in the BJP has a criminal background. 98 or 35% of the 281 winners


- Out of 116 BJP MP's elected this time,100 are Ex-Congress MP’s


- 105 out of 464 Congress candidates secured less than 5% of the votes polled and lost their deposits

-  BJP's 31% lowest vote share of any party to win majority


Nature of the mandate


All said and done, this is the day- the Indian in me was waiting for since the last 30 years. Even if I belong strongly to the other side of spectrum, I would certainly accept that I wanted a clear one party mandate, so that this era of coalition politics gets resoundingly defeated. Regional parties, I have always maintained are like Zamindars. They behaved as one especially in the last 5 years- guarding their piece of land in the garb of ‘Federalism’. The regional satraps pulled the strings of the Centre, displaying their double standards on issues like NCTC, GST, DTC and even foreign policy. However, this should not imply that I want any Presidential form of democratic system. I would never agree with that, and always respect the Parliamentary form of democracy, which has time and again strengthened India.


Detecting the Problem in the Congress


As the Congress Working Committee meets today, to take stock of the situation, there are certain very important issues which I want the party to notice. These issues are based on my own personal experience as a part of the Social Media initiative and also with interactions on people on the ground

1. There is a wide communication gap between the party and its cadre on ground. Ordinary Congress worker on ground is detached with its immediate leadership (say at district level) and the District level is detached with the State (PCC) level. In some cases, even the Pradesh Congress Committees have little communication between the leadership and them. This is a hard truth, which most Congressmen will accept privately, but never accept it infront of the leadership

2. The ordinary worker on the ground feels neglected. In my course of Social Media meets, I have discovered people who have given their entire youth to the cause of the party, but they are hardly recognized. I am sure there can be political reasons for their situation, but they need some recognition- mostly in the form of a post- hardly in the form of any money.

3. The party has become an election fighting machine with no real booth level presence in most states. This is contradictory in a sense. With the party, as big as the Congress, we expect booth level presence, but due to the decline of the party in several states, the party simply lacks the organisational strength to fight elections. States like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar and Tamil Nadu are prime examples.

Elections come and go, but state units are never overhauled. The party fights elections, just because it has to fight elections, just because it is ‘Congress’ and has to remain relevant as a pan national party.

4. Communication is the biggest cause of Congress’s defeat. The party was simply not able to make itself heard in the popular discourse. Whether it’s the handling of the media, or whether it’s simple communication of UPA’s achievements or its own initiatives.

5. The Youth Congress and the NSUI are now hardly political organisations. They behave like NGO’s more than political movements. Their internal elections and the burden on their members to submit monthly reports have made their political activity to just tokenism. This is a hard reality, and we must accept that. The reforms and the internal democracy in these organisations have failed to deliver results on ground.

6. I cannot talk about some prominent leaders and their statements, but I can certainly say that the party lacked a lot while presenting its viewpoints on television debates. The 35 member strong panellist team seldom used its entire strength, and the viewers were just left to see a certain section of spokespersons and panellists which were often repeated to defend any topic, even though they might not entirely know about the issue at the hand.

7. The Social Media campaign was started very late, by the time party had missed the bus on the discourse developed by the opposition. Many party leaders with considerable social media presence did not co-ordinate on social media.

8. Simple things like making new members for the party are a cumbersome task now. Also, the party does not know who their actual worker on ground was.

9. The government and the party lacked communication between themselves, not at the top level, but at the mid-level and the levels below it.

10. The party lost connect with first time voters and the youth in general. Period







Possible Solutions

Although, I consider myself a persona-non-grata (nobody) to suggest solutions to the multiple problems which the Congress party, yet I humbly take this opportunity to suggest some possible solutions. These may be improved or may be thrown in the waste paper basket, but still they must be read.

1. The party requires a long term plan of how it wants to connect with its own people on ground. They have multiple platforms- from the conventional revamping of PCC’s, DCC’s and block level organisation to using technology to connect directly to them. It is to be noted that the party has already started working on through its Social Media team, but a greater effort is required at all levels.

2. The ordinary worker at the ground needs to be engaged. Engagement is the best medicine in this situation. They have to be incentivised. They need to be rewarded and recognized for keeping the party flag high even in such times.

3. The party needs a comprehensive plan to create a booth level cadre. Both its online and offline presence can be utilised for this task. This work can also be done using technology.

4. The party’s lack lustre campaigned failed in these elections. Now that it’s in the opposition, it needs to use every possible tool at its disposal to effectively communicate to the people. Now the task is even tougher than before. Media needs to be seriously engaged with. A separate public relations cell within the communication department needs to be created whose sole purpose would be to just communicate with the media on daily basis.

5. I am hardly a person to advise on revamping IYC, NSUI, Mahila Congress, INTUC and other sister organisations. They all need to be made more proactive and political- visible on the street fighting for the party. This is the only humble suggestion, I can make.

6. Each spokesperson and a panellist on TV need a back end ‘Research Cell’. Research wing needs to be created. The Research team which was created before the campaign failed to took off.

7. Social Media initiative of the party needs to be expanded. They should be given more resources and be made active stakeholders in the communication wing. A much cohesive link has to be developed between party’s main stream media communication and its social media team.

8. Digitalization of party’s cadre and its suitable identification is needed. That work has already begun, but needs to be speeded up.

9. A whole new ‘Youth-connect’ long term initiative needs to be launched by the party. The party needs to take part on issues concerning the youth. They need to actively engage with them, sit on ‘dharnas’ with ordinary youth, show solidarity with their demands whenever required. The party needs to develop a long term to cleanse the RSS influence on them, and imbibe the Nehruvian ideals for India. New platforms need to be created and first time voters need to be influenced.

10. Lastly, party has to now be vigilant as an opposition and lose no opportunity to play its role for the people of India, otherwise it will miss the bus.

I am sure that there would be countless suggestions from various quarters and the party would take note on them, but these are just humble ones from my side.

Conclusion

As I wrote all this, I realised that I may have touched upon certain contentious issues, which the party may not want to keep in the public domain. Still, I would like to become transparent about its functioning so that people of India use it as a platform for their own causes. The party has a rich history and a long list of achievements which it can take pride on. The only question is that it needs to believe in itself and slowly and systematically bounce back.

The Indian National Congress is the only party in India which can represent the diversity and heterogeneity of this great country. The ideology of the Congress party is as strong and tall as the Himalayas, it will continue to guard India from bigotry and communalism in times to come.


(All views expressed above are personal views of the writer)