A LEAF OUT OF THE BJP BOOK

The Congress plans to beat the in­cum­bent party at its own game by bor­row­ing its elec­toral strat­egy un­der state in-charge Ka­mal Nath

India Today - - INSIDE - By Rahul Noronha

Veteran Congress leader Ka­mal Nath is adopt­ing the saf­fron party’s ways to bring new energy to the state party unit

NES­TLED IN THE SHADOW OF the Kaimur range, the tem­ple town of Mai­har in Satna dis­trict was an in­ter­est­ing choice of venue for Mad­hya Pradesh Congress chief Ka­mal Nath to kick off the party’s cam­paign on Au­gust 1 for the assem­bly elec­tions in Novem­ber. It was from here that Nath had be­gun his cam­paign in 1998, when the Congress won against all odds. Re­call­ing the time, Nath, af­ter a dar­shan at the Sharda Mata tem­ple, told a pub­lic meet­ing, “Sharda Mata had blessed the Congress with vic­tory in 1998 when I be­gan my cam­paign from Mai­har. The Congress will win this elec­tion too.”

The nine-term Lok Sabha MP will need all the po­lit­i­cal acu­men he has ac­cu­mu­lated over the years to take on the well-en­trenched BJP—in power for al­most 15 years in the state. And what bet­ter way to do so than try­ing to beat the ad­ver­sary at their own game? On Septem­ber 2, a day be­fore Jan­mash­tami, ad­dress­ing a pub­lic meet­ing in Ganj Ba­soda vil­lage in Vidisha dis­trict, Nath promised that his party would set up a gaushala in ev­ery vil­lage pan­chayat (of which the state has about 2,300), if the Congress were voted to power. “The BJP talks about pro­tect­ing cows,” he said, “but does noth­ing. Cows are dy­ing on the roads ev­ery day.” In fact, there is a very ob­vi­ous at­tempt by the Congress to shed its anti-Hindu tag. Party lead­ers are seen mak­ing a bee­line for tem­ples, more so if it’s a shrine with a big fol­low­ing. At all his pub­lic meet­ings, Nath makes it a point to re­mind those present of his Hindu cre­den­tials by point­ing out how he is be­hind the build­ing of the tallest Hanu­man idol, stand­ing 101 feet and 8 inches tall, in Ch­hind­wara.

Ce­ment­ing his party’s Hindu cre­den­tials apart, Nath has also been work­ing to­ward strength­en­ing the party or­gan­i­sa­tion—a pri­or­ity the BJP cap­i­talised on some time ago—ever

since he took over as party chief four months ago. Thirty-one of the 63 dis­trict Congress com­mit­tee (DCC) chiefs per­ceived to be in­ac­tive or ‘prob­lem­atic’ have been re­placed. The rest have been told cat­e­gor­i­cally to sup­port the can­di­dates who are con­test­ing.

Iden­ti­fy­ing the block as the cru­cial level of lead­er­ship for the party to pro­vide sup­port in the run-up to and dur­ing the polls, Nath has sub-di­vided the 11 ad­min­is­tra­tive blocks in his Lok Sabha con­stituency Ch­hind­wara into 120 units. He may not be able to repli­cate this across all 487 blocks in MP given the time left, but he does want to in­tro­duce fo­cused man­age­ment in the smaller units. Two new or­gan­i­sa­tional lev­els—the man­dalam, bor­rowed from the Ker­ala ex­pe­ri­ence, and the sec­tor— have been cre­ated to this end. A few of the ac­tive Congress MLAs and DCC chiefs have en­sured that at least one worker armed with a smart phone and 10 work­ers serve as the party’s eyes and ears on polling day at the booths.

An­other thing that the Congress has ‘bor­rowed’ from the BJP is meet­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties. Akin to chief min­is­ter Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s pan­chay­ats that are or­gan­ised on the ba­sis of com­mu­nity and pro­fes­sion, Nath has been hold­ing meet­ings with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties, most re­cently the Kush­wa­has, on Au­gust 28. In the past four months, Nath has held two dozen such meet­ings with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Ya­dav, Gur­jar, Bohri, Vaishya, Lodhi, Sindhi, Pati­dar, Ban­jara and Balai com­mu­ni­ties. He has promised to look into all their griev­ances and

“I SEE SLO­GA­NEER­ING FOR [RI­VAL] LEAD­ERS [OF THE PARTY] AND PUTTING UP BAN­NERS AND POSTERS AS THE EN­THU­SI­ASM OF WORK­ERS. IT’S A GOOD SIGN.” —KA­MAL NATH

CHANDRADEE­P KU­MAR

SEEK­ING DI­VINE IN­TER­VEN­TION Ka­mal Nath at the Sharda Mata tem­ple in Mai­har

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