With Assembly elections due in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh later this year, the Congress is trying to come up with an electoral strategy that brought it dividends, though not victory, in the Gujarat Assembly polls last year. The Congress is trying to bring on board members of non-government organisations (NGOs) and civil society in these poll-bound states.
Last year, in Gujarat, the Congress had formed an electoral alliance with activists of various caste groups like Jignesh Mevani (Dalits), Hardik Patel (Patidars) and Alpesh Thakor (Thakor). Though that strategy was credited by many with giving the ruling BJP a tough fight in its own backyard, restricting it to 99 seats, the Congress could not prevent the BJP from winning the Assembly elections for the fifth time in a row.
According to a senior Congress leader from Chhattisgarh, the party has been in regular touch with organisations like the Ekta Parishad, a federation of non-governmental organisations, the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan and others working for the poor and marginalised in the state.
Last month, Congress president Rahul Gandhi held a rally—Jungle Satyagrah—in Bendra in Chhattisgarh’s tribal belt. At the event, P.V. Rajgopal of the Ekta Parishad, leaders of the Gondwana Gantanra Party and representatives from civil society shared the stage with the Congress president. Rahul Gandhi had stressed on the need for an alliance with NGOs and civil society members to defeat the incumbent BJP government in the state.
Shailesh Nitin Trivedi, Chhattisgarh Congress spokesperson, said, “The Congress party has identified civil society and NGOs as the real stakeholders in Chhattisgarh. Our party would get civil society members, working on local issues, on one platform to defeat the current anti-people government in the state.”
“We have decided to hold similar meetings with members of civil societies and NGOs in coming days to formulate a targeted manifesto ahead of the Assembly polls in the state,” Trivedi added.
In Madhya Pradesh, too, the Congress is applying a similar strategy. On 22 June, a meeting with civil society and NGO members was held in Indore.
A senior Congress leader from MP said: “In order to frame a targeted manifesto using all people-centric concerns, the Congress has started deliberations with members of NGOs and civil society in the state.”
Manak Agarwal, Congress spokesman in MP, said, “We want to form an alliance with all like-minded people and groups, including members of civil society and NGOs, as there is constant anger within them against the ruling BJP in the state due to the crackdown on funding.”
“In MP, members of civil society and NGOs have already submitted a charter of issues related to the bad performance of job guarantee schemes, health schemes, and the attack on freedom of speech and the attack on Dalits,” Agarwal added.
Besides MP and Chhattisgarh, the Congress is also trying to tie up with members of NGOs and civil society in Rajasthan. A senior Congress functionary told The Sunday Guardian: “We have been working closely with NGOs over the past one year and the party is hoping that civil society’s feedback would help us in the Assembly elections in the state.”