In sports, they say never take your opponent lightly. It is the first rule of the competition. When a bowler runs up the crease, the batsman sizes up the swing, the length of the delivery and even the body language of the bowler to assess the delivery- no matter what the ranking of the bowler! You cannot afford to take your opponents lightly- not just in sports, even in politics! And this struck me while listening to Home Minister of India on a public platform, post-BJP’s Delhi debacle that despite Congress’s complete no show in the capital, it remains the only opponent BJP wants to care about and is wary of!
But what makes BJP still size up Congress, even though it was a comprehensive AAP victory in Delhi! This is because Congress is the only national party, with a pan Indian presence -the only one truly capable of challenging BJP for its position of power and hence, the worthiest opponent. And this is exactly where Congress needs to find its strength!
Rather than fluting any rhetoric, let me suggest some major operational shifts, which have made themselves the most obvious post-Delhi elections. The first one is more of a reminder. The unavoidable need to float localized, issue-based campaigns. Congress has already done this in the past in Chhattisgarh, and even in Haryana, reaping rich benefits. The lack of this module made Delhi campaign unfocused- lacking ground connect, zilch organisational strength and unfortunately showed a visible lack of intent! Rather, the same campaign module was applied by both AAP giving them the required results(you cannot take away the fact that despite ending up in a single-digit opposition, BJP did manage to increase its vote share).In fact, Congress had been in power in Delhi before AAP and had development initiatives- both at the macro and micro levels to boast of, whereas in Chhattisgarh it had been 15 years-long dry spells, and yet it managed to breakthrough! How?!
Yes, there does exist a formula
In Chhattisgarh, Congress focused on the aspirational electorate; it gave people the platform to voice their aspirations through the manifesto framing campaign and then showcased the fulfilment of these aspirations. Despite the lack of a CM face in the assembly elections, Congress rode back to power, speaking a language of hope, intent, ground connect and aspirations. This exercise and the staggering win that followed it validates the fact that a voter wants to hear what is in store for him/her in your agenda, and by extension how credibly can you convey the same. Therefore, the message and the messenger is of utmost importance in a democracy. In my humble opinion, the sureshot winning formula which holds resonance in every case is ground connect, hard work and talking to people in a political language they best understand- Hope!. A glimpse of this formula was visible even in Haryana, where the political analysts had assertively written off Congress Party, put the party in the driver’s seat with 31 seats. What Congress did in Chhattisgarh and Haryana was done by AAP in Delhi- no rocket science there!
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.- African Proverb
Second is the unavoidable and dire need to strengthen the organisational structure. Congress had none in Delhi. Both, AAP and BJP had a consolidated structure in place, which helped in mobilization of the ground connect, even though AAP needed professional campaign management help to fill up the gap. BJP, on the other, was successful in creating the illusion that the party is returning to power in Delhi-solely based on this mobilization. What stood out in Congress’s rout was the glaring absence of organisational strength- forget about booth level, it wasn’t even visible in the higher up ranks. But, then again this wasn’t the case in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, or even Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.
Step down the Ivory Towers
Third, the campaigns need to be localized, public participative, solution-based ones! Public interactions at every level reap dividends-gone are the days of ivory tower political existence. The leader has to lead, but has to be one of their own!
Not taking away the fact that the situation in Delhi is more drastic and demanding! From 40% share during ex CM Late. Sheila Dikshit’s time to 4% in the recent assembly elections, Congress has hit rock bottom. But the thing with hitting rock bottoms is that you only go up from there- provided you realize it is indeed rock bottom! And the only way up is positive intent, hard work, ground connect, solution-centric localized campaigns for the Congress Party to resurface!
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.