What is Rahul Gandhi’s Narrative at the Congress Plenary?

Rahul Gandhi proposes a more democratic approach to counter Modi’s “autocratic government”.

Updated
Politics
3 min read
Rahul Gandhi delivered the opening address at the 84th Congress Plenary session on 17 March.
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What does the seating arrangement at the AICC plenary session say about the message the party is trying to send out ahead fo 2019? Neeraj Gupta and Aviral Virk report.

Posted by The Quint on Saturday, March 17, 2018

At the 1998 All India Congress Committee plenary, Sonia Gandhi’s election as Congress President was ratified. Electorally, the party was at its lowest, having lost two consecutive elections and reduced to its lowest strength in the Lok Sabha with 144 MPs. It was in power in only a few states including – Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Internally, the party leadership was fragmented. Even after Sitaram Kesari’s controversial exit, other senior leaders were yet to fully accept Sonia Gandhi’s leadership, ostensibly because of her foreign origins.

In 2017, the AICC plenary will ratify her son, Rahul Gandhi’s election as party president. Electorally, the party is at its lowest point after the 2014 general election – reduced to only 49 MPs in the Lok Sabha. After losing Meghalaya and Assam, the Congress is reduced to power in only three states – Karnataka, Punjab and Mizoram and one union territory - Pondicherry. Internally, the party struggles to strike a balance between the ambitions of the old and the new guard, continues to be outsmarted by the BJP’s ground-level organisation skills and outshouted by its media campaigns.

It took Sonia Gandhi six years before she could lead the party to a election victory in 2004. With less than a year to go for the 2019 general election, the AICC plenary gives fair view of the message that the Congress is trying to send to its party workers and the Opposition.

Decentralisation of Power

For the first time in the history of the Indian National Congress, the stage on which the party leadership sits has been done away with. The attempt is to give out a message of equality to the party worker, who did not have a say so far. On Day 2 of the plenary, Rahul Gandhi, in his opening remarks acknowledged Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaraiamaiah as leaders who’ve helped “fight the battle of the Congress” and “protecting its symbol”.

A Positive Narrative to Challenge the ‘Autocratic’ Government

Rahul Gandhi, in his opening remarks on Day 2 of the AICC plenary, said:

Anger is being spread in the country, it is being divided and one person is being put against another. Our aim is to bring the country together. The hand symbol can unite people. You (party workers) are the representative of this symbol.

In a sharp contrast to previous plenary sessions, Gandhi kept his opening remarks short and repeatedly accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being “autocratic”. By positioning himself as a more tolerant leader who allowed more room to his leaders than himself, Gandhi will be hoping to set a counter-narrative to Modi’s ‘one man show’.

However, United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi tore into the Modi government, accusing it of being “arrogant and power hungry.”

She accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of working towards a “Congress-mukt Bharat” instead of advancing the country and said that the promises of "sabka saath sabka vikas” and "na khaaoonga na khaane doona" by the current government is nothing but “drama” and their tactics to get votes.

UPA unity and NDA Discord

The Congress is leveraging the TDP-BJP divorce by drawing a comparison to the “dinner diplomacy” displayed by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi last week. “UPA’s dining table is getting bigger, NDA’s walls are getting higher”, is how Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill described the political developments.

In its political resolution, released on Saturday, the Congress mentioned that it was Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh who had announced the award in Special Category Status of Andhra Pradesh in Parliament on 20 February 2014 and that the party was “dismayed that till the date, the implementation of the special category status has not been given effect to and that even the benefits to the State announced in the AP Reorganisation Act have been diluted or not implemented”.

Further, it condemned the “neglect” and “injustice” to the state of Andhra Pradesh by the current BJP-led government and reiterated its commitment to the complete implementation of the PM’s assurances and the provision of the AP Reorganisation Act, and Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh.

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