At a time when Rahul Gandhi is expected to be elevated as Congress president, he has embarked on outreach programmes and efforts to expand existing committees at the grassroots level. Though such efforts are being seen by many Congress members as the mark of a “proactive leader”, it remains to be seen whether they will reap the intended results.
The legal cell of the Congress is expanding its human resources to recruit young lawyers as Congress members. Across the country, state Congress committees will have legal cells that will also take up RTI and human rights’ violation cases.
Jolted by successive losses in elections, the Congress is trying to regain voter confidence by revamping its outreach programmes as part of Rahul Gandhi’s strategy. Expanding the legal cell’s role is aimed at establishing goodwill among lawyers to strengthen the party.
Rajya Sabha member and Supreme Court lawyer Vivek Tankha, who is in charge of this unit, told The Sunday Guardian, “We are reaching out to young lawyers from leading law schools of the country and encouraging them to take up pro bono cases. RTI and human rights are new additions to our legal cell and have been introduced by Rahul Gandhi. In the future, acting as an efficient Opposition, we will be filing more cases against the establishment wherever justified.” The Congress is revamping its legal cell in every state and hunting for potential lawyers who are willing to align with the party. Although only 8-10 states have sent the list of potential lawyers, Tankha said that within a month’s time Congress will have systematic legal cells in every state and at the national level.
“The focus of the Congress’ legal cells would be on cases of political victimisation, police and administrative excesses and fighting the establishment,” said Tankha.
Tankha added, “This is a first-of-its-kind set-up in the past 15 years. This is a significant change in the character of our legal cell. Since RTI and human rights are inter-connected legal subjects, they were made part of the cell. However, one does not need to be a lawyer to file an RTI. So, we will also have members who might not be legal professionals, but are active in RTI and human rights issues.”
Rahul Gandhi has also introduced the All India Professional Congress (AIPC) for the first time to bridge the gap between young professionals and politics. AIPC is headed by Shashi Tharoor and has four regional coordinators, namely Salman Anees Soz (north zone), Gaurav Gogoi (east zone), Geetha Reddy (south zone) and Milind Deora (west zone). The cell has a membership fee of Rs 1,000 and is still trying to organise itself.
Another initiative includes setting up of the Fishermen and Tribal’s Congress to reach out to unorganised groups and organise them, address their concerns and raise their issues in order to re-connect at the grassroots level.Meanwhile, the Congress is also making efforts to establish a connect with NRIs, as was evident from Rahul Gandhi’s speech at an Overseas Congress reception in New York earlier this week. While addressing the crowd at Times Square, Gandhi said, “The original Congress movement was an NRI movement. Mahatma Gandhi was an NRI, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru came back from England, Dr Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, Sardar Patel, these were all NRIs. Every single one of them went to the outside world, returned to India and used some of the ideas they got and transformed India. I’ll go even further, the biggest success in India, our friends in BJP said nothing happened, but one of the biggest successes in India, the milk that most of India drinks, it was a man called Mr Kurien, he was an NRI.”
Many Congress leaders seem to think that the party will be able to revive itself and look forward to Rahul Gandhi’s “coronation” as the party’s president.
Sanjay Nirupam, president, Mumbai Regional Congress Committee, said, “Rahul Gandhi is a sincere leader. All this talk about him being an inefficient leader is false propaganda aimed at ruining his image. Has he hurt the people of this country or taken any stand against their interests? His efforts have started to reap results. Look at NSUI, our win in Delhi University is the proof.”
Commenting on BJP’s criticism of dynasty politics, Sharmistha Mukherjee, member of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, said, “You can look around the world and know that it is standard for a single family to contribute in the country’s politics for generations. The BJP, too, has leaders whose children have followed them into mainstream politics. Using the word ‘coronation’ undermines the democracy practised within the party. Election of party president is a democratic process.”
Priyanka Chaturvedi, national spokesperson, said: “Congress has seen changes in leadership roles, in outreach departments and operational activities. These might not be big reforms, but they are making us understand what people expect from us and how we can assist them. Rahul Gandhi is clear about his plan to generate more jobs and solve farmers’ troubles. Congress will get stronger under his leadership.”