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Rahul Gandhi raised caste issue, but Congress 'failed' to take up Dalit, Adivasi, OBC cause

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 

The election results in the four States came on expected lines, except for those who were thinking too highly of Rajasthan's 'schemes' and Chhattisgarh's 'governance' model. In both the places, the Congress chief ministers were overconfident of their schemes. The governance structure remained lacklustre, and no effort was made to create an ideological projection of the rule of law and constitutionalism to counter the BJP narrative.
In fact, in all the States, the Congress tried hard to look like BJP. The leaders who were 'projected' as the OBC face rarely bothered to speak about OBC, Dalit and Adivasi issues. They were purely fixated to Brahmanical narratives.
The Congress needed to promote rule of law, secularism, inclusion and constitutionalism. It should have invoked the legacy of the great leaders of the past, but that is not possible if you don't follow what you preach.
Rahul Gandhi's caste census plank looked absolutely hollow when the party leadership and structure does not have the space for Dalits, OBCs, Adivasis and Muslims. How many national spokespersons or State level leaders in the party belong to these segments?
Rahul Gandhi campaigned sincerely, and is the biggest influencer for the Congress. There remains no doubt that he tried hard to build a counter narrative, but those entrusted to reach to the masses had no connection or no sincerity on the Dalit-OBC-Adivasi issues.
Look at Kamal Nath. He failed to deliver a single Lok Sabha seat in 2019 despite being chief minister. He did not take moral responsibility. Same was the case with Ashok Gahlot. They ended up damaging the Congress.
The infighting in Rajasthan cost a lot. The Congress needed to rebuild social coalition inside the party apparatus. People will never trust Kamal Nath over Shivraj Singh Chauhan. Despite all his drawbacks, Shivraj Singh Chauhan remains the most agreeable and acceptable face in the BJP. Sidelining him would be extremely difficult.
While Rahul Gandhi raised the issue of caste census in these states, his party had no time to speak to smaller parties. They could have settled with less than 20 seats and would have provided him a bigger help in championing the OBC cause. This issue will come up in Talangana too. The party needs to be ready for such issues because communities want their share in power.
The result also shows the crisis of the first-past-the-post voting system. Indeed, there is not much difference in the vote share between the BJP and the Congress, yet the difference in seats is too big. Here comes the importance of alliance with smaller outfits. The Congress needs to nurture such alliances. But it remains arrogant.
It will be good for the party if it learns a few lessons. Kamal Nath and Ashok Gehlot should be dumped. There is a need to develop leadership on the basis of social coalition with strong ideological shift. Most importantly, while there is a need to respect powerful kshatrapas, they must work in coordination with the Central leadership and follow the guidance of professionals.
Kamal Nath never wanted Rahul Gandhi to campaign in Madhya Pradesh, and instead focussed on Priyanka Gandhi, who did temple hopping. While Rahul Gandhi spoke about caste census, the party never attempted to reach up to Dalits and OBCs. On the other hand, it lost upper caste votes. He must remember that his slogans will be empty if the party cadres and leaders do not take the message to the ground.
Also, it needs to do a lot of research on what is fit for the Congress in Telangana, and whether this fits Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi needs to pick up State and community issues , but his voice will be taken seriously only when he shows them his own model of governance, which is inclusive.
Ashok Gehlot was unable to counter Hindutva narrative; he failed to act against cow vigilantes, and did not provide confidence to Dalits
Ashok Gehlot was unable to counter Hindutva narrative ideologically; he failed to act against the cow vigilantes, and did not provide confidence to Dalits in Rajasthan. Instead, he thought that his 'welfare schemes' would win him the day. It helped but fell far short of expectations.
The battle is still open as far as the Lok Sabha elections are concerned. Yes, it will help BJP enormously in building the narrative. The Congress had not won a single seat in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in the last elections despite heading governments in these two states. 
Now, when it has lost the assembly election, the leadership should focus strongly on the next election, build alliances everywhere to stop split in the opposition votes. Even if the Congress sticks with the voting percentage of the assembly polls in the Lok Sabha in these states, it may win many seats. So, there is no need for disappointment.
The victory in Telangana is historic. The Congress must try to keep the promises made to the people of the State. It must hold on to Karnataka and keep a close eye on the JDS-BJP alliance. The party must ensure that Siddaramaiah and Shiv Kumar don't clash like Gehlot and Sachin Pilot.
It is essential for the Congress leaders to be ready to sacrifice their position for the sake of the growth of the party. Congress leaders have proved that they are power hungry unlike the Gandhi family who have been fiercely fighting the battle despite all personal setbacks.
Rahul Gandhi and the Congress need to be careful of their words in public. Indeed, Hindi is not the forte of Rahul Gandhi, and therefore he should be extremely careful and not compete with Modi on this count. He must present the power of secular values, rule of law, constitutional morality, India of Gandhi, Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh, Maulana Azad, Nehru, Birsa Munda and Subhas Bose.
Lastly, the issue of level playing field, authenticity of EVMs, and failure to maintain impartiality, VVPAT counting, misuse of the officials, raids on opposition during elections, are equally important, and cannot be wished away. It is time our institutions reflect the will of the Constitution and play an impartial role so that democracy is strengthened.
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*Human rights defender. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vbrawat. X: @freetohumanity. Skype: @vbrawat

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