Seven things to learn from the Congress

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 07, 2014 07:05 hrs

The Indian National Congress, the Grand Old Party of India, has been around for more than a century and is the absolute master of all political parties when it comes to strategies of all kinds.

Here are a few things its rivals could learn from the Congress…

1. How to rule with a minimum number of seats…    

In 1996, the United Front with 192 seats could not complete a term. They lasted for just two years and had two Prime Ministers to boot.

In 1989, the National Front with 275 seats could not complete a term too. They also lasted for just two years and had two Prime Ministers too.

In 1977, the Janata Party with a whopping 345 seats could not complete a term.

In 2004, the Congress won just 145 seats. That was enough not only to for them to complete a term, but got them re-elected. In the next term, with just 206 seats, it has ruled in a dictatorial arrogant way and imposed its will on the nation.

The Congress is an absolute whiz at the Centre and the party always has its eye on everything: The bureaucracy. The media. The States. All populist issues. You name it.

Contrast this with the NDA in 2004 which let go of power 6 months before the due date. The Congress rarely does such foolish things.

2. How to protect the leader…

No matter what you say, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is the most charismatic leader the BJP has right now and their best bet of fighting in 2014. And yet what happened? Patriarch LK Advani tried his best to dent Modi’s image backed by Sushma Swaraj.

This kind of infighting has hit the BJP in the past. It was only after strong pushing by Modi, the RSS and party President Rajnath Singh that the rebellion was quelled.

Contrast this with the Congress. All the leaders always rally around party President Sonia Gandhi with military precision. They don’t brook any kind of criticism and will even defend her son-in-law Robert Vadra tooth and nail if they have to.

3. How to manage the media…
The mainstream media is by and large pro-Congress. This is done by a combination of many factors: Government ads. Exclusives. Perks. Government appointed posts and positions. Every carrot and every stick is used.

The BJP in contrast was out of its depths when it ruled the Centre from 1998-2004.  Its strategy of strongly going after Tehelka also backfired.

4. How to target votes, not development…

NDA1 took the moral high ground and launched the India Shining Campaign. They talked of development and tried to showcase their reforms. They fell flat on their face. The Congress does no such thing. It always targets the rural and poor directly.

Whether it’s Lal Bahadur Shastri’s Jai Jawan Jai Kisan or Indira Gandhi’s Gareebi Hatao, their slogans hit the masses directly. The Bharat Nirman ads may be a small blip, as the larger picture remains: UPA1—NREGA and UPA2—Food and Land Bills.

The Congress always has eyes firmly on the vote bank and more often than not it succeeds because of that.

5. How to not let corruption affect you…

The BJP’s LK Advani, Bangaru Laxman, Nitin Gadkari, BS Yedyurappa and Reddy Brothers all quit over corruption charges. Despite that they were unable to take the high ground on corruption.

The Congress on the other hand couldn’t care less. Ministers hold on to their portfolios as long as they can. Leaders hang on to their posts under the most intense of criticism.

A Congressman resigning is a rare event and when it does happen you know that it is probably temporary and he will make a comeback one day.

6. How to manage allies…

It is a wonder how the Congress can piss off so many allies and still get their support. They know what and when to give who. Mulayam Singh Yadav of the SP has gone on record citing the CBI angle and the same may be with the BSP’s Mayawati.

The 2G sword also hangs over the DMK but they were also being appeased with things like the Ram Setu project. Think it over.

In 9 years, there have been many occasions where the Congress has not had the support of 272 MPs in the Lok Sabha but they have still not been in danger of falling. In the Rajya Sabha things are even more dismal, but they have pulled that off too.

7. How to convert an embarrassment into a victory…

The Congress had been pushing the shameful convicted lawmakers’ bill with all its might. When it ran into obstacles in Parliament, it took the Ordinance route. Then surfaced reports that President Pranab Mukherjee was planning to send it back with a number of questions.

This would have been a huge embarrassment for the Congress. But suddenly out of the blue, Congress Vice President and heir apparent Rahul Gandhi stormed into a press conference, called the Ordinance nonsense and said it should be torn up.

In one stroke, he took away all the credit from the Opposition and Pranab. Now you may say that most of India saw through Rahul’s bluff, but it was still better than the embarrassment of it being returned from the President’s office.

The same thing happened with the Lokpal Bill. When it became inevitable, Rahul gave a press conference and got ready to take full credit. He even got a Thank You letter from Anna Hazare.

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. 

He blogs here.