New Delhi: A year ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress is preparing a roadmap to reach out to the poor in urban areas, especially street vendors, domestic workers, taxi and auto drivers, in order to improve a shrinking voter base in cities.
The urban outreach is being spearheaded by All India Unorganized Workers’ Congress (AIUWC), a new wing of Congress launched in August last year. Party leaders hope to target and enrol at least 750,000 functionaries who would be trained to become booth-level workers of the party among economically marginalized sections.
“In Gujarat elections last year, urban areas were a challenge, and the 2015 Delhi assembly polls were symbolic of the party’s consistent decline in the urban voter base. First the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) managed to take away the traditional voter base of Congress in Delhi and then the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a majority of the urban seats in Gujarat," said a senior Congress leader who has closely worked in Gujarat.
The political strategy is interesting because the AAP used a similar electoral strategy against the Congress party in the 2015 Delhi elections where the Congress drew a blank and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP swept 67 of the 70 seats.
“The Congress president has already said that those who will perform will get a political voice in the party. Everyone who gets enrolled as a functionary has to undergo compulsory training programme wherein we go into the details of policies related to unorganized sector and how to raise them. States have already had 25 such training programmes and more are scheduled," Arbind Singh, chairman of AIUWC told Mint.
One of the slogans which the AIUWC is using is “Congress ka naara hai, har mazdoor hamara hai", which loosely translates to Congress’ slogan is that every labourer is with us.
Senior leaders of the party believe that the economic status of financially weaker sections could become one of the rallying points against the ruling BJP which has consistently used the nationalism narrative to consolidate the voter base in its favour. The concerns of the unorganized workers is set to be reflected in the Congress manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections next year.
“We have come across a lot of people who have originally been Congress supporters in terms of their family backgrounds or otherwise but have remained either subdued or drifted away. Our job is to supplement the efforts of the mainstream party and in that sense, it will be very significant in the run-up to general elections next year," said Singh.