In order to regain lost ground, the Congress is developing its Rae Bareli district unit as a model with the aim of reviving the party on a nationwide scale. The Rae Bareli team would be well monitored, be active round-the-clock and connected through its cadres in every village of the district.
Rae Bareli is the parliamentary constituency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and will see village panchayat and zila panchayat polls later this month. It is the only district in Uttar Pradesh where Congress has a zila panchayat president. “The party wants to retain that seat and build on the success to revive the organisation in other parts of the state and the country,” said a Congress leader from the UP unit of the party.
Sonia Gandhi visited the area last month, and perhaps for the first time since she became MP from there, went door-to-door in the villages. “She listened to the locals’ problems and directed party workers to attend to all the complaints. She even met the families affected by a tractor accident. It was unprecedented. We don’t usually see VIPs showing such concern,” S. Yadav, a local, told The Sunday Guardian over phone. Priyanka Vadra already visits Rae Bareli every month to hold meetings with party workers. She tours the rural areas and sensitises the locals about state and Central schemes.
“After Priyanka comes here, Congress workers get into an agitation mode, holding dharnas and protest marches in Rae Bareli almost daily. Of all the parties, the Congress workers are the most vocal on issues, be it national or local,” said Avdhesh Thakur, a local journalist. According to local Congress workers, Priyanka Vadra herself appointed all the 818 village chiefs of the district Congress unit. “She interviewed or gathered information about 3,000 people before appointing them. All of them have been given mobile phones and are checked about their work regularly,” said a district Congress worker.
According to Kishorilal Sharma, district Congress in-charge, besides village heads, Congress has appointed 31 district level team heads, 31 ward level team heads and 15 block level team heads and five Assembly segment in-charges. “All these office bearers have been appointed through interviews and have been tasked to stay connected with people round-the-clock,” said Sharma. All district Congress office bearers have also been trained for at least 10 days by senior party leaders like Salman Khurshid, Sanjay Jha, Pradeep Jain and Suresh Pachouri.
To assess the functioning of the Rae Bareli team, a five-member team of coordinators has been appointed. They come from outside and will coordinate with the Assembly segment in-charges. “This is a first-of-its-kind experiment by the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. Of these coordinators, two come from Himachal Pradesh, one each from Bihar, Delhi and from some other city in UP. They have camped in Rae Bareli and report to the national unit of the Congress,” said a UP Congress office bearer.
Observers in Rae Bareli say that the Congress experiment aims to improve the party’s chances in the 2017 UP Assembly elections. “The Congress had four out of five seats in the district in 2007, but in 2012, it drew a blank. Now, only 19 months are left before the next elections. The party wants to regain its lost ground. Of all the districts, it’s only Rae Bareli where it can stand up because of the Gandhis and hopes that this will boost the organisation elsewhere. But, if it fails here, God save the Congress,” Thakur said.