A file photo of Congress supporters. | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht
A file photo of Congress supporters. | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht
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New Delhi: In November, the Congress party launched a pilot digital membership project in Goa to enroll new members with the introduction of a mobile application. Almost two months later, it has managed only 2,600 new members, along with 700 enrollers, ThePrint has learnt.

The party had set itself a target of adding 2 lakh new members by 15 January.

“While we officially claim that we recruited 6,000 to 7,000 members, the actual number is around 2,600. It’s been a flop,” a source involved in the project told ThePrint.

The enrollers act as intermediaries for the party to recruit new members.

The Congress claims it was testing the waters in Goa, a state where it had emerged the single largest in the 2017 assembly elections. But poor response notwithstanding, it plans to expand the project to three districts in Gujarat and four in Uttar Pradesh.

“The project is likely to be launched in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh districts, including in Rae Bareli,” said a second source, who works in the party’s social media team.

AICC secretary J.D. Seelam, who launched the pilot project, however, said the drive had been rolled out on a small scale and will be intensified this month.

“Goa was picked because it’s a smaller state. But we faced a setback after many of our MLAs quit. The project will be intensified this month,” he told ThePrint.

Seelam, however, said the deadline to recruit 2 lakh members is March 2020, and not 15 January, as reported earlier.

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‘Few takers for Congress’

The Congress’ pilot membership project came in a bid to expand its base across the country. Its data analytics team developed a new app for the drive. The app initially allowed anyone to sign up as a member but the party changed the process later to accommodate members through the enrollers.

Those who sign up are asked to provide their contact details along with their voter ID card number and a photograph.

The source involved in the implementation of the pilot project blamed local factors for the poor response in Goa.

“The factionalism in the party in Goa created a situation where each side wanted to keep the other from getting the upper hand. So we had to introduce enrollers for each of the two factions to prevent misuse,” the source said.

But that wasn’t all. A lack of “institutional knowledge” to conduct a membership drive also scuttled the project in the state, added the source.

“The last membership drive in Goa happened nearly 15 years ago. When the party leaders who were inducted then were told to conduct one, they didn’t know what to do… That didn’t help.”

Last membership drive held ‘before UPA-I’

According to party sources, the Congress’ last full-fledged membership drive was held before UPA-I took charge in 2004.

“Membership is a continuous process. It does not happen with just a membership drive,” a former Congress general secretary told ThePrint.

The party had decided to launch another large-scale national membership drive in September last year, according to party general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal. But there has been no progress on these discussions.

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