Monday, 8 March 2010

II -Rahul’s Transformation of the Indian Youth Congress : Guiding Principles

This is the second in the series of posts about the transformation in the Youth Congress in india. In this post, I blog about the guiding principles that inspired the transformation. To go to the first post and follow this series in sequence, please click here

In 2007, a group of 30 senior congress leaders got together with Rahul in a week long workshop- the outcome of that workshop was project Vistaar. A comprehensive program, Vistaar, was envisioned to be rolled out in ALL states and Union-Territories to transform the basic structure of the Indian Youth Congress. The Key guiding-principles behind Vistaar were the following:

1. Open Doors: Question- How do you get into the Congress / Youth congress? The answer historically has been- if you want to get in, some “leader” needs to have blessed your entry- or no membership. Under Vistaar, this basic barrier was to be completely broken down- and the floodgates opened- anyone could get in subject to a few basic conditions- that you were between 18 and 35, a proven resident of that panchayat/nagar-panchayat (ward) that you wanted to get in as a part of, are not a member of another party, and do not have a criminal record. In Punjab, where this was implemented first (early 2009), the membership increased from 30,000 to 3.6 Lacs due to this- an impressive 12 fold increase. TamilNadu in the currently ongoing process has received 15.7 Lac applications, of which 14 Lakh were valid bonafide applications- members in EVERY panchayat and nagar-panchayat- all this in a state that has not seen the Congress party Win in the last 42 years. Impressive, right?

2. Elections in and elections out: What is the basic purpose of a political party? To win Elections! This simple fundamental premise was applied to the Youth Congress. Any person that wishes to be an office-bearer has to win an election. Period. No Exceptions. Posts at the panchayat/ ward level are filled thro direct elections, and the elected office bearers – 5 for each panchayat and 10 for each ward (given the higher population in urban) form the electoral college for the other levels of leadership election.

3. You Exist, and I Have Proof that You Do: Applying for membership is very easy, but fulfilling the conditions demands paperwork and the fulfilment of this process is in your being allocated a Barcode. The IYC will go to great lengths to ensure that they have tamper proof data before they will allocate the barcode. Apart from submitting the photo-id based form in person, you also need to submit the proof of your residence in the panchayat , the proof of your age, and if you belong to a reserved category (eg SC/ST), the proof of that. Once verified, a UNIQUE barcode will be assigned to you, and you cannot change the membership details after that-and all these documents are scanned for posterity and for easy access.

4. Its Tech Savvy, Baby: The IYC has committed to a foolproof process across the 35 states and UTs. This means conducting recruitment drives, putting up voter lists, conducting elections in lakhs of panchayats- just in Tamilnadu, where i observed this process , 20,005 elections are being held over a 2 week period. Manual systems cannot and will not be able to keep pace, or be error free- ergo, everything has a very strong technology base- membership databases, scanning of document, the barcode system, membership scheduling, election scheduling, nomination forms, election results etc etc- Tech is an integral part of this process. And you thought that the BJP, thro their Advani web campaign, were the more tech-savvy of the parties?

5. Keep it Fair and Clean: Given the need to keep this process as transparent as possible, Rahul has roped in Foundation for Advanced Management of Elections and ex Chief Election Commissioners such as Lyngdoh and Rao- to audit the elections and keep them fair and transparent. For instance, any recommendations from the FAME observers are immediately acted upon- an instance is that every person who wants to contest an election has to sign a voluntary declaration that they have never been criminally convicted.

6. Align to National Election Organisation: Earlier, the IYC was organised on its own internal structure- the rural organisation was Gram- Taluk- Zilla etc and the urban organisation was Ward-Town-District-etc- under Vistaar, the organisation structure was collapsed and aligned to the way mainstream India is organised- Ward/Panchayat level -> Assembly-> Loksabha-> State level- basically bringing the internal organisation into synch with the way the country is politically organised.

7. Direct Link to Rewards: The entire process of organisation has also been linked to success and outcomes for the individuals- given that “success” to a politician is to get the “ticket” to contest the mainstream elections, IYC office bearers will be given 33% of all tickets to contest official elections at the Assembly and the LokSabha level- this % will actually go upto 100% in the next few years... basically making this the only route to entry into the congress.

8. Expand base to capture the Swing: Fact- most elections are won on swing of 3-7 % of the votes: @ a Lok Sabha level, this translates to less than 100K votes. Just expanding the membership base (in TN they now have 1.4 Million bona-fide IYC members across every panchayat) will translate to this swing in votes- thereby making for a stronger election-winning machine.

Given the above guiding principles, Vistaar set out to create a comprehensive process of transformation and change. The next post talks about the actual process of transformation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is all good in theory... Downfall of Congress started the day Rahul Gandhi implemented Vistaar. Like you said politics is about winning elections.. Punjab which was the pilot project in 2009 created history by re electing BJP SAD government for a second term in 2012. Your president, vice-president and all three general secretaries tasted defeat in vidhan Sabha election in 2012. Tamil Nadu despite your youth congress endeavours does not return more than 4-5 mps
Mr Suri since you seem to be a management type... A famous saying goes that when something is not broken do not fix it.
The way I see it, it was an idea which would fix all ills. Yet like most ideas it was impractical and prone to errors... News around local cadres in Maharashtra is that the winner bribed to the tune of 10-15 crores to win state elections..
PRO's, LRO's, APRO posts are very sought after as they bring in the bucks through bribes.