The Congress’ turnaround in the Delhi civic bypolls is a result of good groundwork by its party-men in the Capital. It all began two months ago when a survey commissioned by the Grand Old Party found high levels of dissatisfaction for the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government among voters in 13 municipal wards.The internal survey revealed that issues like price rise, lack of governance and corruption topped the minds of voters.These were precisely the issues that the AAP had promised to tackle in their pre-Assembly poll campaign. Armed with vital information, Congress managers planned a micro-level strategy aimed at reaching out to voters. The plan also laid stress on emphasising the good work done by the previous Sheila Dikshit governments.It also compared the previous Congress governments’ highs with failures in the 15-month tenure of the Kejriwal government. The Grand Old Party also used this opportunity to counter the BJP by stoking the dissatisfaction of voters with regard to the Narendra Modi government.Strategy shift In a shift from the past, when a Congress candidate would just criss-cross the narrow bylanes of wards while waving at curious onlookers and residents, a total of 10 booth-level teams were formed and tasked with conducting a door-to-door campaign.Partymen say they visited each house at least three to four times on a daily basis. From merely distributing pamphlets, the focus this time was on holding extensive interactive sessions with voters and listening to their problems.This renewed approached helped the Congress to bridge the gap between its workers and voters. It also resulted in people comparing the 15-month Kejriwal rule to 15 years of the Sheila Dikshit government.advertisementIn a bid to monitor the execution of the strategy, the teams were asked to send around two dozen pictures of their interactions with the voters on WhatsApp. Small corner meetings were also held to connect with the women voters and they elicited a positive response. A ward-level Hindi newspaper, titled Congress Sankalp, was published based on the issues flagged by the Congress.In a symbolic gesture, the Congress also threw 15 posers at Kejriwal as his government completed 15 months in office. Separate manifestoes were released for each ward based on the inputs of voters regarding the issues plaguing them.Recalling an incident during the campaign, a Congress leader said voters in Munirka slum asked them to do away with the white Gandhi caps with Tricolour as voters mistook them to be AAP volunteers.Grand Old Party back again? AAP workers sport a similar cap with the party symbol, broom. Even Congress nominee Yogita Rathi had to take her cap off while campaigning. The voters also said they wanted to teach AAP workers a lesson as they had disappeared after the Assembly polls last year.In Khichripur ward, an elderly couple was angry over the nonpayment of old age pension for over a year. They said they had no hopes from the AAP government.Congress managers claimed that party vice-president Rahul Gandhi lending his weight behind the safai karamcharis, street vendors and the slumdwellers of Shakur Basti also sent out a message that the poor could look up to the Grand Old Party once again.The Congress had lost its traditional Dalit vote bank to AAP in 2015 and the victory in the civic bypolls is significant as the party had no presence in these areas since 2007.
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