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Verdict 2013
Only Connect
Rahul Gandhi, seems to have learnt the need to connect better with people after the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the BJP. But how does he do it and who are the people with whom he wants to connect?

The sure sign of a losing battle is not the criticism that comes from opponents, but the unsavoury remarks that begin to leak out from an organization’s rank-and-file. The ‘disciplined’ Congress soldiers, who otherwise follow the leadership’s diktat meekly, only get back their voice after an electoral debacle. The drubbing that the Congress suffered at the hands of the BJP in the recently held Assembly elections—losing 4-0 in the four northern states and managing a victory only in northeast’s Mizoram—has thus loosened the tongue of many Congressmen.

The opacity in decision-making in the Grand Old Party doesn’t leave much room for speculation on whether the sage advice that many Congress leaders seemingly offered before elections to the party high command, was taken seriously or not. But the election results speak for either the lack of it, or if offered, the inability and failure to implement it. One lesson, however, that the Congress leadership or more precisely, Rahul Gandhi, seemed to have learnt is the need to connect better with people.

But how does he do it and who are the people with whom he wants to connect?

Number-crunching advisors with fancy degrees from American B-schools may impress those in the cocktail circuit, but hardly those who matter—the people of real India. Effective leaders who can connect with people are not thrown up from laptops but from being in close touch with the hundreds and thousands of ordinary Congress workers and supporters. And that connection, to make it meaningful and real, has to go far beyond the confines of the Congress party.

Is it sufficient to speak from the ramparts without joining the cause of those at the ramparts?

For the past years, we are told Rahul has been working hard to make the youth and students’ wings of the party strong and effective. But where was the Congress vice president or his youth brigade when millions marched to Ram Lila Maidan on the Lok Pal Bill? Or why were they totally absent when large number of young girls and boys exploded in anger in the wake of last years’ Delhi ‘Rape Case’?

It is about time that Rahul should realize that before he starts sharing his pain with people of India—famously about the death of his grandmother, Indira Gandhi, at the hands of her bodyguards— he should also be able to share their pain. If he had lost his balance after her tragic death, then so did the families and friends of over 3000 Sikhs killed in reprisal attacks in Delhi and elsewhere in 1984. Was there any attempt to reach out to them?

When he speaks of communal riots, is it enough only to mention Gujarat while glossing over the deaths of Muslims in Bombay in 1992-93 or in Muzaffarnagar or elsewhere in the country? A fight against communal forces cannot be selective. It cannot be picked up to condemn some and condone others through one's silence. It has to be unwavering and unequivocal. Picking and choosing perpetrators only prepares the groundwork for more such incidents where potential mischief makers are encouraged and not deterred with severe punishment in accordance with the law of the land.

Moreover, what about corruption, an issue that became an over-riding factor in the minds of many people who voted against the Congress? Is it enough for the Congress leadership to take action against a few allies and Congress leaders, while maintaining a studied silence over Priyanka’s husband Robert Vadra? Shouldn’t the Gandhis have instituted an independent investigating body to look into the charges of land-grab against him instead of rallying behind him at every public function?

If Rahul is looking for a symbol to connect with people then he should seriously analyze the AAP’s electoral symbol—the jhadoo or the broom. One of the most essential items of an Indian household, the jhadoo, till recently was rarely displayed in public. But on Sunday when TV screens all over the country were filled with triumphant AAP supporters waving their jhadoos, it signified a fundamental change in Indian politics.

Perhaps someone should remind the Congress vice president that there was a time when the jhadoo was also an essential tool of the Congress party. It was when Congress workers under Mahatma Gandhi’s instructions landed up in numbers at the Harijan Mohallas to clean up their dirt and connect with the people of real India. It is about time for Rahul and the Congress leadership to pick up an equally effective tool from the party’s past to connect with the people of new India.

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