Congress has devised a novel strategy to fight assembly elections due to be held in Assam. The national party has brought in IIT graduates who have deployed a “booth micromanagement” strategy in order to cultivate voters.
The congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has handpicked a team of 15 IIT alumni who would be led by a 27 year old Rahul Parmar and would be directly reporting to the party general secretary for Assam, C.P. Joshi.
It was in the summer of 2015 that Mr. Parmar and his team came up with the idea of “booth micromanagement programme” in which for every 100 voters there would be three volunteers-one young, one old and one female.
Mr. Parmar told the press that since the time of his arrival in the state he has so far recruited 4.5 lakh volunteers across the state. All these volunteers are trained to think and speak along the lines that would help the congress win the election in the state where it has been in power since more than a decade.
Mr. Parmar said,” We guide them and give them leaflets- it’s not related to publicity. Our task is to convey simple messages to the people.” Contrasting his strategy to that of Rashtriya Swyamsewak Sangh’s he said that he picks his volunteers from the constituencies they belong to while the RSS cadres can be from anywhere. He said that his methodology was different from RSS’s that took its campaign to almost every door to canvass support for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.
One of the key elements of Mr. Parmar’s strategy is that he trains his volunteers to be critical of the congress too. He said,” Schemes like Indira Vikas Yojana or free blanket distribution were not reaching the people. So we told them (volunteers) that we need permission to distribute things (under government’s schemes) through democratic means.
Mr. Parmar’s journey began on November 14, 2014 when the party was celebrating the 124th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru. At that time Mr. Parmar was pursuing his Masters in Industrial Economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. He opted for this course after graduating from IIT in 2013. While earlier he believed in right wing corporate-friendly capitalism, it was under the tutelage of Prabhat Patnaik, the well-known Marxist economist that he started believing in Left-leaning socialism.
At Nehru’s anniversary he got indulged in a debate on Indian economy with Mr. Gandhi. He said,” I was critical of everything… I told him (Gandhi) that the Congress had no idea about managing economy. I told him that NREGA was useless.” He further added,” Later, he asked me to meet him the next week.” When he met Mr. Gandhi the following week he was asked to report to C.P. Joshi. After having met Mr. Joshi he moved to Guwahati as the party’s poll strategist. He is able to exert his influence over the party leadership in Assam due to his access to Mr. Gandhi. Although till now the congress has been wary of outsiders it is left to be seen whether Mr. Parmar’s efforts can help the party get any purchase in these elections.