Rahul Gandhi
Congress president Rahul Gandhi | Twitter/@INCIndia
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After defeat in Gujarat polls, Congress takes a cue from Amit Shah’s grassroots strategy, seen to be contributing to BJP’s successive election victories.

New Delhi: Taking a cue from the BJP, the Congress is focusing on strengthening the party’s election booth management and its first test will be in Karnataka that votes on 12 May.

The BJP’s booth management strategy, prepared by party president and poll strategist Amit Shah, is seen as a big factor in the party’s serial election victories.

As part of booth management, party workers are assigned to mobilise more voters to vote for the party at the booth level, with a special focus on booths at which the party has fared poorly in the past.

Now, the Congress is working hard to develop booth level committees in poll-bound states and has launched a project called ‘Shakti’ two months ago to connect with grassroots workers.

“The name Shakti has been given to empower party workers and bring them into direct contact with Congress president Rahul Gandhi,” said Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot.

The exercise has been launched in Karnataka and Rahul himself called five randomly selected party workers from the state and asked them about the problems in their areas and who they thought were popular Congress leaders.

Rahul will make more such calls in the next phase of campaigning in Karnataka.

Project ‘Shakti’

According to the party’s own analysis of the Gujarat assembly elections, it could have won seven more seats if it had managed 17 booths across these constituencies. This information is cited in every meeting with party workers in order to highlight the importance of booth management.

The newly formed data analytics department of the Congress, led by Praveen Chakaravarty, is working to collect the booth-level data across the country.

Under the project ‘Shakti’, the party asks people to send a message with their Voter ID no. to a given mobile number.

“Around two lakh workers have got connected to us in Rajasthan in the past two months through Shakti,” Pilot added.

At the back end, the data department has all the voter lists in digital format. The Voter ID number sent is immediately matched with the existing details in the voter list and a profile of the voter, along with her constituency, booth and other details is prepared.

“With Project Shakti, we are marking our workers on every booth and this will help us in identifying the weaker booths so that we can focus more on them,” said Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken.

A total of 57,000 workers have been registered in Delhi under the project to date, Maken said.

The information gathered is also used for spreading information on WhatsApp about party policy and the events.

“We used this information to invite people for the midnight protest in Delhi on 12 April,” Maken said referring to Rahul Gandhi’s impromptu protest at India Gate against the Unnao and Kathua incidents.

“It’s an effective way to reach out to party workers in the shortest possible time,” Maken said.

Booth committees

Along with the Shakti project, the Congress is working on forming booth committees in the states.

Each committee will comprise ‘anubhag pramukh’, booth manager and sector pramukh. Anubhag pramukh is what BJP calls ‘panna pramukh’, who is in charge of every page of the voter list of a particular booth.

There will be five or more anubhag pramukhs under a booth manager. Similarly, all the booth managers of a particular block will report to a sector pramukh.

“We are doing this exercise in Chhattisgarh right now and it will be complete by this month,” said P.L. Punia, general secretary in-charge of Chhattisgarh.

Similar efforts are being made in other states as well. “In Mumbai, we have formed booth committees in 26 assembly constituencies and the work is going on in the remaining seats,” said Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam.

The booth committee workers are given training in three parts.

“In the first part, we focus on booth management, how to check the EVM and voter identification,” said Punia.

“In the second segment, we talk about the work done by Congress in past 70 years since the BJP always accuses us of doing nothing. The party workers should be able to answer these questions in their regions,” Punia explained.

In the third part, senior Congress leaders talk about what is called failure of the Modi government, along with the local problems in the BJP-ruled states.

This is the first time Congress is carrying out such an exercise across the country. Party functionaries say this will work as a bridge between the grassroots workers and senior leaders.

In a video posted by Rahul Gandhi on Project Shakti, he says, “You always have a complaint that no one in the party listens to you. Now join Project Shakti and get your voice heard.”

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