New Delhi, Feb 14 (Calcutta Tube) Having altered the electoral calculus in Uttar Pradesh in his party’s favour, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is hoping to replicate the same in Bihar by sending out 16 young MPs in a massive membership drive ahead of the assembly elections due this year-end.
What’s more, the party is all set to unleash 22 central ministers involved in social welfare programmes, who will tour Bihar to ‘expose’ Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s claims of good governance.
Before that, to galvanise party workers and boost the membership of the party’s youth wing, the 16 MPs have already criss-crossed the state to sign up young men and women aimed at generating a wave in favour of the Congress in the state.
‘While talking to youth, I gave my own example of how anyone can move forward in the Youth Congress through the democratic process. There is certainly a change in mindsets,’ Ravneet Singh Bittu, MP from Anandpur Sahib and president of the Punjab Youth Congress, told IANS.
Bittu went to Madhubani and adjoining districts in north Bihar.
For the moment the party is trying to reach out and concentrate on pep talks to groups of students and youths. ‘The response (to membership drive) has been very good. We estimate the Youth Congress membership in the state (Bihar) between 800,000 and a million,’ Ashok Tanwar, MP from Sirsa in Haryana, told IANS.
Tanwar, a former Youth Congress president and one of Rahul Gandhi’s trusted lieutenants, said the party’s membership drive in other states had led to significant rise in its organisational base. In Punjab, it led to the enrolment of 350,000 members while in Tamil Nadu, membership had soared to 1.45 million.
‘The party’s position in Bihar will definitely improve. All sections are looking towards the Congress,’ Tanwar claimed. He had visited Bihar over 20 times when he was Youth Congress chief.
Rahul Gandhi himself set out on a two-day discovery-of-Bihar trek early this month to shore up the party’s dwindling political fortunes in the state and symbolically kicked off the campaign from west Champaran where Mahatma Gandhi launched his Satyagraha movement against the British.
Insiders pointed out that the party’s popularity and its vote percentage had increased though it could win only two seats in last month’s by-elections from 18 assembly constituencies.
‘The party’s surprise success in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections without any tie-ups has convinced Rahul Gandhi that `ekla chalo’ (go it alone) will be the party’s signature tune in Bihar as well,’ said another young MP.
Other young MPs who have been hotfooting it around the state included Sachin Pilot, Vijay Inder Singla, Shruti Choudhry, Prabhakar Ponnam, Dipender Hooda, Jiten Prasada, Priya Dutt and Madhu Goud Yaskhi.
Pilot, the minister of state for telecommunications and IT, said his ministry had started 3G, WiMax and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) services in Patna and would give emphasis to the border districts.
‘The focus will be on border districts especially those affected by Maoist violence. Also the department of posts has given 300-400 jobs to people in two districts on a pilot project,’ Pilot told IANS.
Yaskhi, MP from Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh, claimed there was tremendous enthusiasm for the party in Bihar.
‘Bihar has a high representation in the premier Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service but the state suffers from poor infrastructure. It is in bad shape. Rahul Gandhi has ended the culture of political godfathers and encouraged youth from all sections to join the party,’ he said.
In Yaskhi’s reckoning there were 77 seats in the 243-member Bihar assembly where the Muslim community was a deciding factor on who would win.
(Murali Krishnan & Prashant Sood can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com)