At Rahul’s behest, Congress looking for full-time cadre

June 20th, 2008 - 1:56 pm ICT by IANS  

By Liz Mathew
New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) With a series of poll debacles behind it and a general election looming ahead, the Congress has identified a crucial weakness - few full time workers unlike the BJP and the Left. And the man who zeroed in on the problem, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, is desperately looking to fill the lacuna through a talent hunt. “We are facing a serious problem as we do not have many full-timers to work for the organisation. Unlike parties like the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and those of the Left, the Congress has only part-timers,” said a Congress general secretary who did not want to be named.

“During his interaction with the activists of Youth Congress and NSUI (National Students Union of India), Rahul Gandhi also realised it,” said the party official.

About 50-60 percent of the party’s legislators in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat and 40-50 percent of those in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are businessmen. Others include professionals such as lawyers, doctors or engineers.

Rahul Gandhi, who turned 38 Thursday and who many believe is the ruling party’s likely future prime ministerial candidate, has launched a desperate hunt for “young, sincere and dedicated” workers at the grassroots level. His talent search is aimed at identifying young party workers who would function directly under him to work for strengthening the organisation.

His ‘talent search committee’ comprises party general secretaries Ashok Gehlot, Mukul Wasnik, B.K. Hariprasad and V. Narayanasamy. Also on board are young MPs such as Jitin Prasada, Deepinder Hooda and Ajay Maken who have been meeting young people from different states to pick up the “right people”.

According to Congress sources, an average of 100-150 youngsters come to the team members for “interviews” in each state when the delegation is on tour.

“We talk to them in detail, understand their tastes, aspirations and willingness to work for the party at the grassroots. At least 30-40 of them are shortlisted. The selected group is again interviewed by Rahul Gandhi,” a party leader said.

A group of about 30 from across the country had been selected by Rahul Gandhi and his team to work in Karnataka during the assembly elections.

The absence of party members or even dedicated supporters in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar has resulted in embarrassing situations during elections. In many balloting centres the Congress has no “polling agents” to field.

Congress sources are beginning to say that the charisma of the Gandhi family and the party’s appeal can turn into votes only if there are enough full-timers to carry the message to the voter.

“What we are looking for are youngsters willing to work at the grassroots without expecting too much financial benefits. But when they work for the party, we will take care of their expenses,” the Congress leader said.

Although the Congress leadership has not taken a final decision on the selected group’s future, the leaders indicated that they would be “given more responsibilities on the basis of their performance”.

Rahul Gandhi, who seems to have realised that the absence of full timers and young blood is costing the party dear, is expected to use his ‘army of youth’ in the coming election campaigns.

The Congress, getting set to face a general election, has suffered a series of electoral defeats since it came to power in 2004. While assessing its humiliating defeat in the Karnataka elections, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) - the apex decision-making body - admitted that the organisation ought to be strengthened to keep the party leadership linked to the ground realities.

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