Thursday, March 18, 2010

Indian Youth Congress: Tales from Chhattisgarh

Where there's a Will
I spent almost two weeks last month traveling across 70 of Chhattisgarh’s 90 assembly constituencies, mostly meeting the state’s youth. In all, I ended up addressing 109 public meetings, both big and small. My agenda- if one can call it that- was to motivate those in the age group of 18 to 35 to join the Indian Youth Congress (IYC), the Congress party’s youth outfit. (The photograph here is of a press report of my visit to Pathalgaon in remote Jashpur district, courtesy Vibhash Thakur) To do so, I had to, at the very least, answer a most obvious question:

Why should any young person (1) pay Rs. 15 (and in case of women and SC/STs with a caste certificate duly attested by an executive magistrate, Rs. 5); (2) fill out a rather detailed computer-readable form; (3) provide legible photocopies of a variety of documents as proof of age and address; and (4) affix a color photograph, all to become member of an organization of youngsters whose parent party has remained out of power in the state for the past six years, and will, in all probability, continue to do so for the next four years at least?

Even if the Will is present, the Way to Membership isn’t exactly easy: most of the state’s youth, living as they do in rural habitats, have no compelling need for such documentation nor do they have access to photocopiers and photo-studios. For instance, a tribal in Orchha, the entry-point to Abujhmar, which as its name suggests is possibly the only territory in India yet to be surveyed, doesn’t really need a caste certificate signed & sealed by a magistrate in Jagdalpur, a township at a distance of almost 200 kms by road, of which at least 70 kms is heavily-mined by insurgent-Maoists, when his village is 100% tribal. Yet, for some peculiar reason, which escapes all Common Sense, no less than 49 youngsters from Orchha did in fact complete all the aforementioned formalities to become members.

A Silent Revolution
The Congress party, as I see it, is in the throes of a carefully-executed Revolution: 125 year old Top-Down hierarchies are being systematically dismantled to pave the path for a new sort of democracy, where members get to choose for themselves- as opposed to have someone else select for them- who their next generation of leaders are going to be.

As revealed by Prof. Tan Chung in his study of the composition of the Politburo in post-Revolutionary China (1949)- many erstwhile Imperial (Chin’g) Mandarins suddenly found themselves sitting in the highest echelons of the People’s Republic as comrades of the peasant-proletariat!- it’s quite possible, indeed even probable, that we might well end up with the same faces- or genetically younger versions of old, familiar faces- but make no bones, the Rules of the Game have changed, both irrevocably and irreversibly. Leadership can no longer be based on personal proximity to power-centers- the Patron-client network elucidated by Prof. Judith Brown in her seminal study of the Mahatma’s rebuilding of the Congress during the latter phases of the National Movement (1919-47)- but solely and exclusively on the criteria of public support. To paraphrase the neo-realist Kenneth Waltz, this is ‘a systemic change’.

The modus operandi of this Revolution- proclaimed as “Youth Transforming” on the website and membership forms- is remarkably simple. I can only say: why didn’t anyone think of it before? Its stages are threefold: first, members are recruited; secondly, they elect their leaders, at the panchayat, ward, assembly, Lok Sabha and state levels; thirdly, the elected leaders (now called EOBs, or elected office bearers) are trained in the science of political leadership before the process can start all over again. To be honest, this three-phased Model didn’t just emerge by itself: it is a result of very patient Trial & Error. Mistakes were made, lessons were- & are still being- learnt.

Trial & Error
Punjab was the pilot project. Then came Gujarat. Both states were a great success in terms of mammoth numbers of members enrolled. Yet, two problems surfaced: one, membership was mostly confined to urban centers & a majority of the villages, especially those in remote areas, were left out entirely; and two, voter turnout remained dismally low (16% in Gujarat). Clearly, the Model, as it existed then, wasn’t reaching out to the rural youth. The cause, it was discovered, lay in the way elections were structured: most members were required to travel vast distances to cast their votes in no more than two polling centers per assembly constituency, in order to directly elect their assembly committees. Now, the process has been changed and the problems overcome.

Not only would there be more polling centers in every assembly constituency (at least, 10, I hope) but members would no longer be voting directly for assembly (Vidhan Sabha) committees; they would instead vote to elect their respective ward/ panchayat committees, who would in turn vote for assembly committees. This new arrangement makes it incumbent upon assembly candidates to get their electors- i.e., the panchayat and ward committees- elected, which means that they not only have to persuade a maximum number of people to become members, but that they have to do so in a majority of wards and panchayats of the constituency.

As far as the documentation & the photographs are concerned, that, I imagine, is something we’ve learnt from Tamil Nadu, where more than 14,00,000 members were enrolled: a stricter criteria was necessary to ensure that genuine persons become members. It is, for all facts and purposes, a necessary evil: the cumbersome process ensures that only those really committed to the Youth Congress- its leadership & the ideas (as opposed to any definitive ideology) it represents- join.

Now, coming back to the central Question- why should anyone join the IYC- I believe the best answer can be provided by posing the counter-question: why shouldn’t one? Even so, let me give just three reasons:

(1) First, to be a member of the IYC is to become an intrinsic part of the world’s largest youth network with members- and elected office-bearers (EOBs)- in each and every part, from ‘Kashmir to Kanyakumari & Gujarat to Guwahati’, of what is indeed the world’s largest, most vibrant democracy. This in turn means that members are not alone; they are part of the most powerful, influential youth organization of the nation encompassing members from every region, religion and race; their voice, once united, becomes the voice of India;

(2) Now, for the first time in its history since the early 1970s (when Mr. Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi was elected President), the IYC has become truly & fully democratic: this means that members get to decide who should lead them, unlike in say the BJP’s youth wing, Yuva Morcha (YM), where leadership is more often than not imposed from above. This means that from day one, they are incorporated into its decision-making process;

(3) Last but not the least, members get to establish a direct rapport with the IYC leadership, headed by Rahul Gandhi; in essence, they become part of his team. There’s no denying the fact that Mr. Gandhi represents a link between the nation’s past and its future: while being firmly grounded in tradition, he, more than anyone else, would determine the shape of things to come. It means a lot, then, that members would, through the IYC network, get to share their feelings, their hopes and aspirations & also their concerns and problems, with ‘RG’, the one person who is really, sincerely trying to understand us, the Youth, and in so doing, uniting us in one common bond like never before.

A Chhattisgarhi Marvel
Small wonder then that more than 3,90,000 youth, from almost every panchayat and ward of a predominantly rural-tribal state like Chhattisgarh, have chosen to become members of the IYC. As a proportion of the population, this is the highest membership done so far anywhere; and in real terms, we’ve the largest number of members from any non-Congress ruled state of the nation. (The same is true of the NSUI membership, where more than 79,000 students from Chhattisgarh enrolled last year compared to 50,000 in Delhi and 90,000 in neighboring Madhya Pradesh, both of which have three times the student-population.) Four further aspects make this figure even more commendable:

(1) The PYC membership drive took place at the exact same time when PRI (Panchayati Raj Institutions) elections were being conducted: this meant that most if not all of the party’s grassroots workers were busy either contesting or campaigning for their district, block and village panchayat elections, and could spare little, or no, time in enrolling YC members. That work, I am happy to report, was done entirely by the youth, most of whom have joined the organization for the first time;

(2) With the lone exceptions of Mr. P Chidambram, Union Home Minister (who had come on official business), and Mr. Arun Yadav, MoS in the Union Government, not one senior party leader visited the state during the entire course of the month-long membership drive. Needless to say, we had all hoped that RG would come, but for some reason or the other, he couldn’t make it. (In Mumbai, for instance, where no less than 26 party leaders campaigned, the membership was about 1,50,000.);

(3) Not only that, unlike Jharkhand and Rajasthan, the membership drive in Chhattisgarh was not extended by even a day; &

(4) Chhattisgarh, I believe, has had among the highest rejection rates of membership forms: I personally know of at least 100,000 forms that could not be accepted because they were, for instance, not accompanied by photographs or photocopies of required documentary proofs, given the backwardness and remoteness of several of its areas.

It is interesting to note that the State Congress Committee (PCC), which is the Congress party’s main body in the state, enrolled less than 1,50,000 members statewide even though (a) the PCC membership campaign went on for almost a year & was extended for a further two months; and (b) the PCC membership fee was just Rs. 3 per member, which is 1/5th of PYC’s Rs. 15. In other words, the PCC was able to enroll barely 40% of the total number of members enrolled by the PYC despite its membership fee being only 20% of PYC’s and the duration of its membership drive being 14 times longer! I do not of course mean to denigrate the parent body in any way, but merely site these figures as proof of the tremendous enthusiasm that the youth of Chhattisgarh have towards Rahul ji, who has, over the course of his visits to various parts of the state, developed a very special place in the people’s hearts & minds. Also- and I can’t help pointing out this obvious fact- this is indicative of the faith, or lack thereof, that people have in the election process of the aforementioned two organizations.

Mahatma meets Machiavelli
I would also like to clarify one point of criticism that has been raised against the election process. It has been argued by many that only those with money, resources and clout can come up through this system. That is not entirely correct. The amount of resources etc. required to win at the panchayat or ward levels is much lesser than that needed to win a post on the assembly, Lok Sabha or state committees. The possibility of 'genuine' (as opposed to 'moneyed') persons occupying these grassroots level positions therefore cannot be ruled out entirely: to further ensure that everyone, including those who are not economically or socially privileged, get into the system, 3 out of 5 positions have been reserved at the panchayat levels for women (both general and reserved), SCs, STs, OBCs and Minorities. Likewise, the number of reserved posts at the assembly level is 10 out of 20; and 5 out of 10 in the Lok Sabha and State committees. Cumulatively, these carefully reserved posts would account for more than 60% of all positions, making it inevitable that persons from these depressed communities have a potent voice in the new structure.

Money, resources and clout- if at all- would be a factor (of many, including most crucially, Network & Image) for top posts in the assembly, Lok Sabha and state committees. In this context, I would like to point out that the IYC is only organization of the Congress party to have done away with district and block units; they have been replaced with panchayat, ward, assembly, Lok Sabha and state committees. These new units correspond exactly to the units of the Indian electoral system: these are the exact same places for which general elections are held. And it would be naive, not to mention mighty foolish, for anyone to imagine that money, resources and clout do not play any role in these elections. (In the recently concluded PRI elections, candidates spent lakhs on sarpanch elections!) Given this reality, let me not mince words: the Congress party, like every other party, is in the business of contesting- and more importantly, winning- elections whenever and wherever they are held. (To put it in a less Machiavellian fashion, we are in the business of winning people's trust.)

The IYC election process, which is not very different from the general election process, therefore helps to identify the most winnable persons- and for whatever it's worth, I do not for one moment believe that there is any need to be apologetic about this fact of political life. If anything, it is the ruling BJP government of Chhattisgarh that is alarmed: the phrase they now use to refer to the Youth Congress is "laikaa pakraiyya", which translates from the local dialect as "youth catcher"!

In the end, as a Congressperson, I can only hope- and pray- that the Revolution that is transforming the party’s two youth organizations vis-à-vis the NSUI and IYC doesn’t stop here: it is my earnest wish that it would encompass the whole of the Congress.

21 comments (टिप्पणी):

Mashood K.K (TIFR) said...


I read the recent article in your blog about IYC. Indeed inspiring and radiating hope.

I would like to put into your notice some potential islands that are getting left out from this transformation.

One most important is the research institutes of the country. Unlike the universities, there exists no usual politics there. The total number of students all over the nation would be in the order of few thousands. It may be a relatively small number in terms of vote power, but a substantial one when viewed in terms of resources.

These students are mostly away from their home towns. As such are not eligible to take part in the ongoing membership drive of IYC (validated by recent experience of a small group including me in the recently concluded membership drive in Mumbai).

I wrote to the authorities. Unfortunately there was no reply.

I request you to have a look into the matter.


Mashood K.K
Research Scholar
Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education (TIFR)
Mumbai 88

Butchi Kotha said...

Amit ji. good morning. how are you...if you get a time can you also post some usable tags pertainig to our party to rahul vision for common people for discussions... my request if u like.. regards... butchi..jai hind

Arvind Sharma said...

Amit jogi ji aapko kaun nahin jaanta, akhbaaron mein bahut pada hai aapke baare mein. Good Luck

FAHAD said...

hello sir

Ritesh Gujral said...

Is there any organization(excludes Sevadal whose activeness is dubious)of congress which works for the poor tribes in the remote villages of chhattisgarh where the basic necessity like clean drinking water, medical help etc are still Inaccessible ? Large number of membership doesn’t confirms the drastic change in the result of assembly elections the reason for this is obvious congress neither have a cadre based supporting organization like RSS nor the unity and discipline it need it to fight their counterparts specially in tribal areas which constitutes a large no. of assembly seats. Your sarcastic way to figure out the PCC’s enrollment statistics reflects the factions between the oldest party of Independent India.

Subodh Haritwal said...

sounds gud bhaya...neways hw ru...n hws chats wid u frm a long all d best

Avinendra Singh said...

Young leaders need to make a stand and create new vision for our state. Best wishes !

Chandrika Mishra said...

best bf luck ........all youth of chhattisgarh want to do work under your leadership

vishal dhawna said...

abhi jo sanghathan mein hai wo sust dikh rahe hai jogi ji aap kuch kariye

Devyash Tripathi said...

kisi mahaan rajneetigya ka kehna hai agr aap saatta ka prabhar chhate haan toh apne se chhton ki zaroor suniye kyuki aap ko ekdun unhe bada bante dekhna hain

Viplav said...

Dear Bhai ,

Come back as honest political power, trumpets are blowing in support of better people in CG, corrupt days of present BJP politicians are to go in next state assembly elections,

let you lead a broader front in more democratic way.

Anonymous said...

Jai Jogi - Jai Jai Jogi !

gallery802 said...

Jogi Rocks for India

Kapil Purena said...

hello bhaiya . . .hw r u . . . . . .i read your blogspot 1/2ajadi . .written abt youth cøngress , that is real . .u have such a quality that gives us specialy youth for a new way . . .where want to every youth . . .basicaly we need u we want u . .

Dr TS Chandrashekar said...

It is a great exercise by Amit and an inspiration for grassroot workers liike us to move around and build the party.
T.S.Chandrashekar M.A.M'PhiL/PhD South Korea
International Peace Political and Social Activist
Vice President Rainbow Foundation Karnataka Chapter

Atul Singhania said...

I feel that Bhaiya should contest the YC elections. Through his leadership, the youth of Chhattisgarh will be energized and this will be a stepping stone in the strengthening of the party in Chhattisgarh.

At the same time, I also agree that Bhaiya needs to concentrate on his practice too. He needs to devote sufficient time for it as its a very complex profession and Bhaiya has recently entered into it.
But by looking at the past instances, I feel Bhaiya should be definitely able to manage both the things simultaneously. He has proved this many a times in the past.

Ultimately, I feel Bhaiya should be the best judge of his areas of interest and we should respect what ever decision he takes.

sammy said...

My Teacher always told me when ever some one praises you ask them humbly what they liked in you so you could see if they really mean their words and when they criticize understand they flaws they point out.
I appreciate the desperation you have to get the attention of one and all and you have chosen pretty good platforms both modern as well as contemporary but my question to you is whats your plan with these youngsters why do you need all of them to join Congress is it just for the sake of head count I know a person of your stature would have worked on something about it get your ideas to us share.
I am from an IT background what opportunities are you offering me to come back to CG and what awaits me .

All the best

atul said...

sir, is there any probability of seeing 100% youth handling the system of india in the future?

Charu said...

It is a wonderful feeling to know that the youth will be leading the country with its new ideas and aims...To make sure that the future generations to come are also well equipped to lead the country,we have to make sure that no child in the country goes without a decent education...
The future of India will be as bright as the sun if every child here is granted education.
We have been blessed to have had a good education-thanks to our parents..
But then again there are some children in this country who can not even write their own names. Is it not then up to us to make sure that these children also get the education that they deserve.

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Anonymous said...

Dear Mr.Amit Jogi.
KInldy note the many young persons in Bilaspur are going many corporate /organisation demanding money for their travel to Delhi.Sometime they try to get these funds forcibily. This acts creates abad impression abour Youth Congress as well as of the Congress Party.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

What you do for living? I am glad, you are increasing the headcount of IYC by thousands, but what is the quality of these young guys, and most basic question is what they perceive of politics? There is a thick black line which divides the thinking and doing of these people who you see bringing democracy into IYC.
An Organisation just does not changes because now it boasts of bigger headcount, its an idea, its a motivation to do better and the quality that makes difference.
People in Bilaspur, Bangalore or in Abujhmar are not different, we do not want a 100% politicised society et all. The difference you cannot notice in your world and the people around but it corrupts the little minds that you are bringing them in IYC and the whole pattern changes.
If you are keen, to get honest feedback - i hote you will respect my below thoughts:
1) I hate to politicise schools, colleges and universities. If people want to be active in politics, lets not ask them to prove affiliation to a particular party. Lets help organise meetings discussions and motivate them for thought leadership. Once young minds get affiliated to a party line, we kill the creativity in them. Academis hit is another issue but i would not discuss that as thats for invidual to manage.

2) I belong to a small town and i can see what IYC has done to make the complete town politics corrupt. And yes the truth is there is no DEMOCRACY in IYC except for 1-5% pan India, it will be tough for you to digest, but thats the truth. All the good for nothing people, got the forms paid the fees and other docs and got another set of good for nothing people enrolled in. These guys with their such following base, contested elections and these are the people you would happily meet. Where is the thought leadership except they learn to toe few of the party lines and fight for poor etc. Are you participating in Quality control?? Hoards of people may benefit your election motives but not this country.

3)I am totally against the idea, what i see many people saying, "if you have problems why do not you join politics?".
Why should each and every citizen be in politics if he has some problem. We become Engineers, doctors and professionals because we are good at it. why there is not any such parameters for politics? I know you will have your own answers, but if IYC has to bring change, we need to answer this question. There is nothing good in getting back to the same quality.

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Amit Aishwarya Jogi
Anugrah, Civil Lines
Raipur- 492001
Chhattisgarh, INDIA
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