Dear Mr Rahul Gandhi:
The letter is meant to help you and the Congress Party.
In your speech on Saturday at the central hall of Parliament, you said the 52 elected members of the party will fight as a man, representing 121.3 million voters who trusted you. It is good to know you are back in the fighting mode, after a brief period of despondency. The 300-odd seats that Narendra Modi’s BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) won is enough to put one on anti-depressants for the rest of one’s life, no matter what a good, tough campaign one personally waged. But all that’s over. The future is here. For an observer like me, who falls into no political camp, it seems clear that you will find the next five years the most challenging and rewarding in your life. So here are a few pointers.
1. The battle in Parliament, as it is live telecast, and reported and reacted on in print and social media is important because of the perception element. But this is for the intelligentsia; the Lutyens’ crowd, as Arnab Goswamy calls it. They are important, but not very. Nevertheless to humour them, Parliamentary performances need to be very good. You will need to form a small shadow cabinet. You and your team will need to study policies and critique them. You will need to articulate creative alternatives that are actionable. You need to own the intellectual space; but not in self-righteous terms. Leave that to the liberals engineering revolution after revolution via FB and Twitter sitting on their toilets.
2. The real fight is on the ground. Recruit a tight, honest, and efficient team to build if possible a cadre-based party. The ground level operations, especially in villages, must involve social work that touches people’s lives. Dig a well. Build a poor woman a house. Get a child a school admission. Help them to get a ration card. Get their names and contacts down on a piece of paper. Preserve the paper. Keep in touch with them.
3. Ask your MPs to adopt a village each; or even an area. Grow a community.
4. Open regular channels with industrial and business houses. Just keep talking to them. Raise their problems in Parliament and other forums. Do not be hostile to the titans.
5. Travel the country. Wherever you go, ask for money from the crowd. One rupee, two rupees, ten. The amount doesn’t matter. Keep a record of the contribution. It is just a kind of connection. They have a personal stake when they pay. Open a bank account specifically for this.
6. Gandhi was right. Villages should be self sustainable. This would reverse mass migration to the city. Come up with an economic plan to revive rural India. Get a first rate economist to help you.
7. Do a fortnightly FB live with children around the age of 14 and upwards. They are the new 2024 voters. Talk to them. Take questions from them. Meet them if possible.
Memoir is an emotive, propaganda tool
8. Write a memoir. Get an international publishing deal. Put your fight down in print. It will come in handy as an emotive, propaganda tool.
9. Hold regular dialogues with minorities, like Muslims and Christians. If Muslim votes alone consolidated in your favour, you are through.
10. Tell your partners from other parties as well as the public that you are India’s next PM. Most importantly believe in it, and behave like one.
11. Convert your party’s troubled newspaper, National Herald, from print to a full fledged online set up. You will cut costs, and your reach would be greater. In any case, you will need a more focused media plan. TV channels like the Republic are doing damage in terms of perception and morale.
12. Realise that everything you do is for power. Without it, you can’t change anything. You and your family have paid for everything you got or lost. Get your due.
Get three Amit Shahs
13. Get to know why North East went out of your party’s remit. What’s BJP doing there that the Congress isn’t?
14. Do everything possible to get three Amit Shahs. It’s organisation, organisation, organisation.
15. Always be clean shaven. Beard doesn’t suit you.
16. Win back Amethi at any cost. Do not be hurt at your bastion’s rejection of you. Keep Wayanad in Kerala which elected you with you at any cost.
17. That memoir. I could ghost write it for you.
C.P. Surendran is a senior journalist based in India