Catch them young is Congress-BJP motto

June 29th, 2008 - 2:52 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi
By Monobina Gupta
New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) In an era of competing strategies, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are scouting for talented young men and women and a brand new slogan that would give the two rivals a cutting edge in the coming assembly and Lok Sabha elections. Youth, the watchword in the parties, has sent their head hunting leaders to the dustbowls of the country. The chosen ones among them, handpicked by the leaders, are headed to New Delhi to get that decisive stamp of approval from the central leadership before wading into the political waters.

At the Congress party headquarters, party general secretary Rahul Gandhi has talked to enthusiastic youths in his national talent search programme.

Senior BJP leader and former rural development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu is engaged in similar efforts.

“We are organising meetings with the first-time voters. They are 30 percent of the electorate,” Naidu told IANS. He has asked state party units to give preference to youngsters while finalising candidates for the assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

Congress leaders too are digging into untapped energies of the young to make the party and its mass organisations fitter, more active and more dynamic.

Ever since Rahul Gandhi started wooing youths in right earnest, hoping to infuse some fresh blood into the Youth Congress, his party is on a youth mobilisation spree. Its flagship is the talent search programme.

“The programme will stop local leaders from promoting their candidates. Nepotism will end and talented workers will come to the fore,” said Congress Working Committee member B.K. Hari Prasad, a member of the party panel that toured states and drew up a list of names of short-listed candidates to appear before Gandhi.

At present the district block presidents, the pulse of the people, are nominated. “We want to democratise the process and elect block presidents. The national talent search will help us to identify the really talented people whom the people will elect,” said Prasad.

The basic idea is to revive the students and youth wings of the party. But the buck does not stop there.

The idea is also to make the party organisation more democratic. To do all this the Congress has set up a string of committees that are in the process of submitting their reports to 10 Janpath, the residence of party president Sonia Gandhi.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony, heading a seven-member committee to look into the reasons the Congress lost the elections in Karnataka, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, has put together a report for revamping the party.

Senior Congress leader M. Veerappa Moily heads a committee for intra-party reforms and future challenges. “Rahul Gandhi has taken active interest in these meetings. He has sat through two-three hours long deliberations,” said Moily.

The BJP says its mobilisation of first-time voters is not inspired by the Congress. “We do not go by the Congress,” said Naidu.

Analysts point out that like the Communist parties, the BJP is a cadre-based party. It draws on the manpower and resources of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological home of the BJP, and is much better off than the Congress when it comes to getting the organisational machinery to work efficiently.

“We are not a cadre- but a mass-based party,” said Hari Prasad. The Congress concedes the BJP has a cutting edge among the below 35 voters. But a rejuvenated Congress with its student and youth organisations will be able to impress young voters, said Hari Prasad.

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