New Delhi: The Congress is launching a mobile application for its workers in poll-bound Gujarat to boost its public connect as well as properly assess members, in line with the focus areas identified by the party during the Chintan Shivir this month.
According to the Congress’ Gujarat in-charge, Dr Raghu Sharma, the first phase of the ‘Satyagraha’ app will begin on 1 June. During this phase, the app will be made available for use to Congress workers in 40 tribal constituencies of the state over six months.
In the run-up to the assembly elections, scheduled for December 2022, the app will also be used by the party for some of the other campaigns in its pipeline — targeted at the state’s youth and farmers — eventually covering all of the state’s 182 constituencies, said party sources.
This outreach programme will be carried out by party volunteers, who will go door-to-door in their booth areas and use the app to record the details of each household and their grievances. The party hopes to reach 1 crore households in the state ahead of the election.
Speaking at the Chintan Shivir, Congress MP and former party chief Rahul Gandhi had said that the party needs to revive its connection with the people of India. Just two days before the Shivir, at a rally held on 11 May in Gujarat’s Dahod, Rahul also announced that an empirical system will be used to reach houses in the state and assess workers, Sharma said.
“He said that we will systematically be going house-to-house to get the opinion of people, and that those who do good work will be appreciated by the party. This project has the full support of the high command and the leadership,” Sharma told ThePrint.
The ‘Udaipur Declaration’ adopted at the end of the Shivir calls for better assessment of party workers, a system for which is to be put in place under the Congress general secretary (organisation).
Later, speaking at a press conference in Delhi on 17 May, Congress general secretary Ajay Maken said that all those holding organisational posts, irrespective of their position, will be given “tasks” and will be assessed based on whether they complete these tasks properly.
The pilot phase
The first phase of the Satyagraha app, said Sharma, will begin with a 15-day training period for worker-volunteers, around 120 in each constituency, on how to use the application.
A Congress functionary based in Gujarat, who is working on the ‘adivasi satyagraha’ campaign and will be overseeing the use of the app by workers, said the 27 ST-reserved constituencies in the state and an additional 13 constituencies with “ST impact” have been shortlisted for the six-month-long campaign.
In this time, the party wants to reach 10 lakh tribal households and on-board at least 5,000 dedicated workers who will be using the app for the outreach programme.
The functionary, who didn’t wish to be named, added, “Our workers will go door-to-door in these 40 constituencies and give each tribal household an ‘adivasi patra’, or letter. They will then note down details of the households on the app, as well as their suggestions for better representation of tribal issues. The ‘adivasi patra’ will then be stuck outside each household visited.”
The patra, he added, will list the policies that the Congress promises to implement if it comes to power and the issues the party will raise through its campaign.
These include proper implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), which recognises the rights of forest-dwelling tribal communities to forest resources, the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), which ensures self-governance in India’s scheduled areas through traditional gram sabhas, and a campaign against “illegal occupation” of tribal land by corporates.
The workers who reach maximum households will be “trained on the tenets and workings of the Constitution”, after which they will be expected to hold “samvidhan chaupals”, or public meetings, in their booths for outreach purposes. These chaupals will be monitored by the app.
Over the six months of the ‘adivasi satyagraha’ campaign, the party aims to hold 10,000 such chaupals.
“Once this is done, right before the elections, the feedback that we get from this outreach programme, and our vision for tribal welfare that is formed from the same, will be circulated again among the 10 lakh households through an ‘Indira card’,” the functionary said.
A common theme
The app, the functionary said, will also be used for campaigns targeted at other social groups. ‘Satyagraha’ will be a common theme in all these campaigns, which is why the app has been named the same.
“Satyagraha is a very ‘Congressi’ idea. It is Gandhi ji’s idea, and since we don’t have resources, this is what we will fight with. Just like we have the ‘adivasi satyagraha’ now, there will be a ‘yuva satyagraha’ for the youth, ‘kisan satyagraha’ for farmers and so on. By the end, we want to reach 1 crore households in the state,” he said.
This also ties in with the overarching discussion by the Congress at the Shivir to return to its roots — to do “what Gandhi would do”.
“Generally, in politics, we see that decision-making is very personalised, but this [the app] is causing a disruption in the sense that now a worker’s output can be assessed using data. To the workers, this gives a sense of security that koi mera kaam khaa nahi jaayega (no one else will be able to take credit for my work),” added the functionary.
Linked to ticket distribution
A member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) data and analytics department, which built the app and is handling the data obtained through it, told ThePrint on condition of anonymity that this data will be “directly linked to tickets” in the upcoming state election.
“Since the app is GPS-enabled, the only way one can fudge this is if workers or ticket-aspirants do not go themselves and send someone in their place with the phone. Even then, someone must do the outreach from the party’s side and that person will have to fill up a questionnaire in the app that asks for details of the households and their grievances,” the department member said.
In order to add an “extra level of verification”, an “in-call, out-call” campaign is being planned after the end of the household registration period.
“We aim to call all the households that we have registered to verify the concerns against their names and thereby verify if a candidate has indeed been to that household. We will also get feedback on which candidate they like better or who appealed to them more,” said the department member.
“This feedback will be collated and the names will be sent to the party’s central election committee (CEC). The general survey done by the party will also recommend a name, as will the screening committee set up for ticket distribution in every election. If the name is unanimous, then there will be no discussion by the CEC. If not, then the final call will be taken by them.”
A similar version of the app may also be used in Himachal Pradesh, which goes to polls at the same time as Gujarat, and in other states in the future.
The election-bound states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh registered very low membership numbers in the party’s digital membership drive that ended on 15 April.
Another source from the data and analytics department said the new app is an advanced version of the one used for the membership drive. The new campaign to recruit volunteers for outreach as well as the need for a modified app was necessitated by these low numbers in the poll-bound states, the member said.
The party had said that those members (called enrollers) who registered the maximum people on the party’s membership app would be eligible to vie for tickets in upcoming Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC), AICC, and state elections.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)