Rahul Gandhi’s latest jai kisan rhetoric doesn’t quite work

rahul gandhiRahul Gandhi 2.0 is angry-and this anger is making him take ‘potshots’ at the Narendra Modi government almost every other day. Okay, I know it is politics. And I know that he is not angry. And I know that he is trying to rediscover himself. And I know that he is trying to ensure that the party of his ancestors doesn’t become totally irrelevant in the days to come.
Rahul’s latest jibe at the Modi government came yesterday when he said in Punjab: “Does the farmer not make in India?…Your government did nothing when hailstorms destroyed their crop?”
This after he had told a farmers’ rally in New Delhi earlier this month that: “We[i.e. the Congress led UPA government] increased the MSP of wheat from Rs 540 to Rs 1400…The MSP has not changed, no benefit to farmers.”
These statements are in line with the dole based politics and economics practised by the Congress party over the years. The trouble is the country has had to pay a huge cost for this. Allow me to explain. 

The MSP is the price at which the government buys rice and wheat from the farmers, through the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and other state government agencies. The MSP of rice was increased rapidly by the Congress led UPA government starting in 2007.
Between 2007 and 2014, the MSP of rice jumped up from Rs 580 per quintal to Rs 1310 per quintal, an increase of 12.34% per year. In case of wheat, the MSP started increasing from 2006 onwards. Between 2006 and 2014, the MSP of wheat jumped up from Rs 650 per quintal to Rs 1400 per quinta, an increase of around 10.1% per year.
The Table 1 shows the buffer stocks and the strategic reserves that the FCI needs to maintain at various points of time during the course of the year. 

Table 1

Now look at Table 2 which shows the stocks that FCI maintained at various points of time in 2014. A comparison of both the tables clearly tells us that FCI is stocking significantly more rice and wheat than what it is required to do. Interestingly, after the Narendra Modi led NDA government came to power, FCI has been going slow on procurement. In the earlier years the FCI was stocking even more than what it currently is. 

Table 2

As on 



Total (in lakh tonnes)

Jan 1, 2014




April 1, 2014




July 1, 2014




Oct 1, 2014




Source: www.fciweb.nic.in

What the comparison of the two tables clearly tells us is that as the MSP prices have been increased, more and more rice and wheat have landed up with the government than what is required by it to run its various food programmes. In fact, the data clearly shows that before 2008 FCI bought as much rice and wheat as was required to maintain a buffer as well as a strategic reserve.
During and after 2008, the purchase of rice and wheat simply exploded. The reason for this is fairly straightforward. In the financial year 2008, the MSP of wheat was raised by 33.3%. In the financial year 2009, the MSP of rice was increased by 31.8%. And this led to farmers producing more rice and wheat in the years to come. This rice and wheat landed up with the government. FCI did not have enough space to store these grains and that explains why newspapers regularly carried pictures of rice and wheat rotting in the open, even though food inflation was rampant
The MSP policy run by the Congress led UPA government has now led to a situation where Indians farmers are producing more rice and wheat than what is required. In fact, influenced by this steady increase in the price of rice and wheat states like Punjab and Haryana, which have a water problem, are growing huge amount of rice and wheat. These crops are huge water guzzlers. Further, farmers are not growing enough of vegetables and fruits, where the prices have increased at a fast pace.
Also, when the government becomes dole oriented that leaves little money for it to do other things. At the end of the day there is only so much money that even a government has. As an editorial in The Financial Express points out: “This year, the government plans to spend around Rs 2.3 lakh crore on the food economy, including the food subsidy, and a very small fraction of this is for either crop insurance (imagine what that would do for farmers right now) or for creating irrigation facilities (imagine what that would do when the monsoon fails).”
Rahul Gandhi yesterday talked about the government not doing anything for the farmers after the hailstorms destroyed their crops. His government was in power for ten years what did they do on the crop insurance front? Why was the entire focus of the Congress led UPA government in making the farmer dependant on the government?
Interestingly, Rahul’s mother Sonia has written to the food minister Ram Vilas Paswan seeking a relaxation in the quality of wheat that the government buys from the farmers. As per the current regulations FCI does not buy wheat with a moisture content of greater than 14%. The Times of India reports Paswan as saying that: “permitting more moisture content beyond this level would mean the grain would be unfit for human consumption.” The newspaper also reports a food ministry official as saying: “There is no procurement of grains with more moisture content than the permitted limit. The procurement is being done as per the food safety standard law.”
This is a fair point. The government can’t be procuring wheat which is unfit for human consumption. Also, there is something majorly wrong in the state of the nation, where more than 65 years after independence, the main opposition leader suggests that the government buy wheat which is essentially not fit for human consumption.
This scenario would have never arisen if a crop insurance policy that covered a major section of the farmers had been in place. Who is to be blamed for this? Narendra Modi who came to power only 11 months back? Or the Congress party run by the Gandhi family which has been in power in each of the decades since independence? The answer is obvious.

The column originally appeared on The Daily Reckoning on Apr 30, 2015

Sonia Gandhi, Congress protesting against land acquisition law is sheer hypocrisy


Vivek Kaul

Sonia Gandhi, the soon to be replaced president of the Congress party if media reports are to be believed, is leading the charge against the land acquisition bill. And this is very ironical given that it was the Congress party which created the land acquisition mess in the first place.
Until 2013, land acquisition in India was governed by the Land Acquisition Act 1894. This Act came into being during the period of British rule in India and survived for nearly 120 years.
A 1985 version of this Act stated: “Whenever it appears to the [appropriate Government] the land in any locality [is needed or] is likely to be needed for any public purpose [or for a company], a notification to that effect shall be published in the Official Gazette [and in two daily newspapers circulating in that locality of which at least one shall be in the regional language], and the Collector shall cause public notice of the substance of such notification to be given at convenient places in the said locality.”
Given the fact that the Act was a remnant of the British era, it gave enormous powers to the government to seize almost any land that it wanted to. The British were the rulers of India, and not a democratically elected government. They could do what they wanted to.
The surprising bit was that the Land Acquisition Act 1894 managed to survive through 66 years of independence as well. It was abused by almost all governments over the years. The governments seized land from people and handed them over to corporates who made a killing. It would be safe to say that many politicians also benefited in the process.
The humble farmer whose land was being seized saw this happen. The land that was acquired from him at a pittance(if at all anything was paid) by the government was handed over to private parties and everyone except the farmer benefited in the process.
Hence, the trust that is required for any system to work completely broke down. And this will not be easy to repair. Unless this trust is rebuilt land acquisition for business purposes will not be easy at all. The farmer or individuals whose land is being acquired need to start to feel that they are not being taken for a ride.
Further, given that governments acquired land for them, Indian corporates have become lazy over the years. Also, many of them started to see themselves as landlords and wanted land just for the heck of it. This can be said from the inefficient use of industrial land in India.
Let me first share something from personal experience. I grew up in Ranchi, which had many public sector enterprises. The biggest of them all was the Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC). It was built on land acquired from farmers. But only a small portion of the total amount of land that was acquired was ever put to use. Large portions of land at HEC were simply lying unused.
Professor R Krishna Kumar makes a similar point in a recent column in The Hindu Business Line in a more precise way: “
Japan uses a mere 1.9 million hectares for residential and industrial use. This is only 5 per cent of their land; forest cover in Japan is a whopping 67 per cent. Compare this with the 22 million ha of Indian non-agricultural land. That is, Japan uses less than 10 per cent of the non-agricultural land available in India to produce three times more industrial output! The inefficiency of Indian industry in land-use is glaring.”
Hence, those corporates who have acquired land over the years haven’t put it to efficient use, given that they haven’t paid for it or got it an extremely concessional rate. One look at the five-star campuses of Indian IT companies should make this clear as well.
The Congress party was in power for most of these 66 years with only brief interludes where other coalitions came to power in Delhi. And it chose not to do anything about the 1894 Land Acquisition Act, for nearly six decades, even though it was in power in every decade after independence. In 2013, the party put forward The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, which went to the other extreme and brought all land acquisition to a standstill.
Hence, the party protesting against the
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014, which is nothing but the Congress 2013 Act with a few amendments, is nothing but sheer hypocrisy. After taking the people of this country for ride on more than six decades, the party suddenly seems to have discovered its humane side.
To conclude, for the land acquisition system to start working again the trust that has been lost needs to be rebuilt. For this to happen the government needs to proceed very carefully. As Namita Wahi writes in a column in The Indian Express: “Acquisition of land by the state for private industry must only be done upon the showing of a demonstrable public purpose in each case.” And that is very important.

(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek)

The column originally appeared on Firstpost on Mar 18, 2015 

Why there can be no internal democracy in the Congress party

rahul gandhiVivek Kaul 
Rahul Gandhi wants to create a new Congress. “We will give you a party you will be proud of, and that has your voice embedded inside,” he said, after the Congress party was routed in the recent state elections.
Congress is no longer a party with the voice of people embedded in it because it has had no internal organisational elections for four decades now. 
As Ashutosh Varshney wrote in a recent colum in The Indian Express “Internal elections in the Congress party began in 1920 under Mahatma Gandhi’s stewardship and lasted till 1973, when Indira Gandhi suspended them.”
Indira Gandhi as we all know turned Congress into a family run business.
Varshney feels that if the Congress party has to have any long term future, it should start having internal elections again, even if it means that the Gandhi dynasty is ousted from the top rungs of the party.
The logic is if the party can revive internal democracy only then can it be in a position of choosing candidates who are likely to win elections. A candidate who has the support of the party members is also more likely to have the support of the people at large.
There are various reasons why this will not work. The foremost being that the party hasn’t had internal elections for four decades now and in the process has become a party of sycophants. It is a party of the 
chamchas, by the chamchas and for the chamchas. These chamchas start right at the top. The first level of chamchas report directly to the Gandhi family. The second level of chamchas reports to the first level of chamchas. The third level of chamchas reports to the second level of chamchas and so on. This is how the hierarchy works. Any attempts to break this hierarchy by encouraging true internal democarcy would mean that the party will stop functioning totally. And that can’t possibly be a good outcome.
The top two posts of the Congress party are held by the Gandhi family (i.e. Rahul and his mother Sonia). And that being the case, how can any Congress party member be expected to take the idea of internal democracy seriously?
Shekhar Gupta in a column in The Indian Express suggests that internal democracy can only happen by holding real elections for the posts of the party president and vice president. The question is will any real Congress member worth his salt decide to challenge Sonia and Rahul? Even if someone decides to do that what will be his chances of winning? And once he loses the elections, how safe will be his future within the party?
The culture of the party the way it has evolved has become such that it cannot think beyond the Gandhi family. When Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984, the party immediately looked up to Rajiv Gandhi, Indira’s son, to take over the party. When Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991, the party immediately went to Sonia, Rajiv’s wife, to take over the party. Rajiv accepted the post, Sonia did not.
In fact, it is very well known that Sonia did not like the idea of her husband entering full time politics after the death of his brother Sanjay in June 1980. Rasheed Kidwai’s 
24 Akbar Road – A Short History of the People Behind the Fall and Rise of the Congress has a small anecdote which proves the same. “’He(i.e. Rajiv) says his wife will divorce him if he joins politics,’ Indira Gandhi told writer Khushwant Singh, when he asked her if her son Rajiv would fill the gap left by his brother Sanjay.” Rajiv eventually did join the party in 1981. He contested and won the Amethi Lok Sabha seat on August 17, 1981 and was made the General Secretary of the party on February 3, 1983. He was elevated to the top post after his mother’s assassination on October 31, 1984.
But Sonia did not join the party after Rajiv’s assassination in May 1991. Even though she stayed away from full time politics in the years that followed, she was never really completely out of it. As Rasheed Kidwai writes in 
Sonia – A Biography “There is general consensus that she encouraged all those who were opposed to Rao (PV Narsimha Rao, who was the prime minister between 1991 and 1996). Throughout the Narsimha Rao regime, 10 Janpath(where Sonia continues to stay) served as an alternative power centre or listening post against him.”
In December 1997, Sonia Gandhi indicated that she wanted to play a more active role in Congress politics. It took the party less than three months to throw out Sitaram Kesri, the then President of the party and put Sonia in charge in his place. In fact, the manner in which it was done was quite dubious.
The point is that the Congress cannot really see itself beyond the Gandhis. Also, the bigger question is will the Gandhis ever not want to be at the top of their family run concern? If that was the case Sonia Gandhi would have never entered full time politics and neither would have Rahul.
In the recent past, elections have been held in the Youth Congress. This has been the brainchild of Rahul Gandhi and his team to encourage internal democracy within the party. They have used former election commission officials to manage these elections. But the results clearly prove the point that I had made earlier. The Congress is a party of the 
chamchas, by the chamchas and for the chamchas.
Aarthi Ramachandran in Decoding Rahul Gandhi gives examples of chamchas winning these elections in several states. As she writes “In Chhattisgarh Rahul Gandhi’s team member Jitendra Singh spoke to Congress strongman Ajit Jogi’s son Amit to dissuade him from contesting the elections…Though ‘Team Rahul’ managed to stop Amit from contesting it could do nothing about the post being won by his supporter, Uttam Kumar Vasudeo. In Jharkhand, Manas Sinha, a youth leader who had the support of…Subodh Kant Sahay (then a cabinet minister), became the president. Priyavrat Singh, a supporter of former chief minister Digvijay Singh was elected in Madhya Pradesh.”
This was repeated in almost every state throughout the country. A major reason for the same is the fact that it takes a lot of money to fight these internal elections in the Youth Congress. As Ramachandran writes “Only those who have a corpus of about Rs 5-10 lakh can aspire to win the Assembly level Youth Congress elections, one IYC(Indian Youth Congress) office-bearer from Bihar, who did not want to be named, said.”
At a higher levels the money can be a lot more. “The money required to fight IYC elections at higher level varies according to the socio-economic profile of states. The amount of money spent in states such as Bihar is still modest compared to the Rs 2 crore spent in Tamil Nadu for the position of the Lok Sabha Youth Congress president’s post, according to the figures of a party insider,” writes Ramachandran. Hence, it is not surprising that 
chamchas of the bigger chamchas in the party are winning these elections, given that so much money is needed to fight these elections.
Also, a party which has followed a certain way of operating for four decades cannot change overnight. It is worth asking here does the party really attract people who believe in the idea of internal democracy? Or does it just attract people who are looking to latch onto a reasonably senior 
And during the time it tries to change itself, it is not as if other political parties will be sitting around doing nothing. As Gupta writes in The Indian Express “If a rapidly declining, even self-destructive, political party wishes to rebrand, reposition and rejuvenate, will it be done through a 10-year project to democratise it from bottom up? By that time, the BJP would have taken away your mantle of being India’s largest political party and the Aam Aadmi Party would have stolen your Muslim vote-banks pretty much the way it took away Delhi’s urban poor.”
Given this, all this talk about rejuvenating internal democracy in the Congress party, should at best be taken with a pinch of salt.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on December 16, 2013 

(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek) 

As Congress looks for scapegoats, is more Sonianomics on its way?

Vivek Kaul
Abraham Maslow, a famous American psychologist said in 1966 that “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” This statement is also referred to as Maslow’s hammer or the golden hammer.
A very good example of this is the Congress party and its belief that giving out doles to the people of this country translates into electoral votes, something referred to as Sonianomics these days. In the recently concluded state assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the party has been more or less wiped out.
After the results came it has been widely suggested that Sonianomics has stopped working. People are not influenced by only doles any more, they are looking for other things as well. As R Jagannathan, the editor of Firstpost, 
wrote in a recent column “The Congress defeat lies embedded in this hidden voter realisation that by getting freebies, the government may be robbing them of something else that may be dearer – self-respect, safety or faster job or income growth.”
But the question that crops up here is whether the Congress party is thinking along similar lines? Turns out, it isn’t. 
A report in the Daily News and Analysis details the thinking of the Congress party leaders after the election debacle. “They(i.e. the Congress leaders) put the blame on the government’s economic policies, which they said directly hit the party’s core constituency — the weaker sections — which deserted the party and voted for the BJP and the AAP. These leaders demanded the immediate reversal of economic reforms such as those which led to hikes in the prices of cooking gas and diesel. It was argued that price rise affected every family, and that unbridled inflation did the party in,” the report points out.
Yes unbridled inflation did the party in, but there is a lot more to this argument than just blaming the economic policies of the government to raise cooking gas and diesel prices.
The prices of cooking gas and diesel started to go up on a regular basis only in the recent past. And that was after the fiscal deficit of the government threatened to go way out of control. The oil marketing companies sell diesel, cooking gas and kerosene at a price at which they do not recover their full cost. The government compensates them for this under-recovery. Given this, its expenditure goes up, and thus pushes up the fiscal deficit. Fiscal deficit is the difference between what the government earns and what it spends.
Hence, the increase in price of cooking gas and diesel has added to inflation only in the recent past. But high inflation has been around for more than five years now. Ruchir Sharma author of Breakout Nations and the Head of Emerging Markets and Global Macro at Morgan Stanley 
explains this in a column in Financial Times. As he writes “With consumer prices rising at an average annual pace of 10 per cent during the past five years, India has never had inflation so high for so long nor at such an unlikely time…Historically, its inflation was lower than the emerging-market average, but it is now double the average. For decades India’s ranking among emerging markets by inflation rate had hovered in the mid-60s, but lately it has plunged to 142nd out of 153.”
So inflation clearly did not appear overnight. It has been around for a while. Its just that the Congress led UPA government failed to tackle it. Manmohan Singh even equalled inflation to a sign of prosperity. “This (inflation) is a reflection of demand exceeding supply, to some extent it is a sign of growing prosperity of the country,” 
he said in November 2011.
The main reason for inflation becoming a part of our daily lives is because the Congress led UPA government has been handling out doles, in trying to build a welfare state. As Sharma puts it “The government has let fuel and fertiliser subsidies spin out of control and has bought wheat and rice at artificially high prices to appease large farmers. It has been building an expansive welfare state, rather than pursuing reforms to boost productivity. The government has also been pushing up wages through, for example, measures to guarantee employment to rural workers. Over the past five years rural wages have been rising at an annual pace of 15 per cent – faster than productivity growth and higher than in any other Asian country.”
When income growth is faster than growth in productivity it inevitably leads to inflation. To put it in simple terms, more money chased the same number of goods and services, and this has led to sustained high inflation.
The government led by Manmohan Singh saw this as a cost of prosperity and chose to do nothing about. In fact, on the food front a lot of inflation was created by the government. The dole giving culture that the UPA has espoused has led to the government constantly increasing the minimum support price(MSP) that it pays to farmers for rice and wheat it buys from them.
As economist Surjit Bhalla 
put it in a recent column in The Indian Express “World food prices (FAO data) increased at an average compounded rate of 6.7 per cent per annum between 2004 and 2009; UPA procurement prices increased at an average rate of 9.9 per cent. Since 2009, in the last four years, international prices of food have risen 7.3 per cent; UPA 2 price increase per year — 9.3 per cent. The link between procurement prices and CPI is very strong theoretically and empirically…For each 10 per cent rise in previous years’ procurement prices, there is a predicted 3.3 per cent increase in the current year CPI.”
When the government keeps offering a high price for rice and wheat, a lot of it lands up in the godowns of the Food and Corporation of India, through which it procures food grains. This means that there is lesser rice and wheat in the open market, and thus pushes up prices there. One way of controlling this is to ensure that the government releases some rice and wheat in the open market from its stock. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
TK Arun writes in The Economic Times “The food minister has been overseeing a prolonged phase of food price inflation, from atop the largest hoard of grain in India’s history, touching 80 million tonnes (MT) when the buffer stocking norm called for only 31 MT. If only he had sold off large quantities of the grain locked up in government stocks fast enough in the open market, rice and wheat prices would not have gone up a steady 20% month after month, jacking up the price index.”
These are the real reasons behind the high inflationary scenario in the country. The dole oriented economics practised by the Congress led UPA is responsible for it. But the Congress leaders obviously can’t look at it that way. For them, it is a vote generating machine. Hence, they have chosen to blame the increase in price of diesel and cooking gas for the electoral debacle.
Given this, it is more than likely that whatever little economic reform has been done by the Congress led UPA government will take a backseat for the remaining part of their term. Sonianomics will make a comeback.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on December 11, 2013 

 (Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek) 

Why Rahul Gandhi's Toyota Way is not working

 rahul gandhiVivek Kaul  
Rahul Gandhi is a fan of the famed Toyota Way. The Toyota Way is a series of best practices that underlie the managerial approach and the production system of the automobile company Toyota. This management philosophy grew out of the Toyota Production System.
As Aarthi Ramachandran writes in 
Decoding Rahul Gandhi “According to Dr Jeffrey K Liker, the author of theThe Toyota Way, one of the most authoritative books on the subject, its core principle was that ‘the right process will produce the right results. It aimed to do this by eliminating ‘waste’ in the production process to almost nil. It held that ‘standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment.”
Rahul and his team are trying to build a similar sort of system within the Congress which would make standardisation possible. The idea is to build systems and process which would keep working irrespective of whoever is incharge.
Or as Rahul Gandhi put it at a convention of All India Congress Committee(AICC) in November 2007 “If we are to truly develop leaders of whom this nation is proud, we need to do two things. The first is to build an organisation that is open and relevant to the broad range of Indians who believe in our values and seek to serve the nation. The second is to build a meritocratic organisation. Young people bring tremendous passion and energy into our organisation.”
The idea it seems was to move Congress beyond the appointment system, where only sons, daughters, relatives and loyalists of senior leaders could hope to make it through to the upper echelons of the party.
In order to do this Rahul and his team have gradually taken over the administration and the running of the Congress party, over the last five to six years. In the process, they have managed to alienate the old timers of the party. Also, the idea has been to bring some sort of measurement into political leadership.
As Rasheed Kidwai writes in 
24 Akbar Road “Team Rahul is also believed to be working on a plan that aims to reward performance and quick response. Ticket aspirants who can produce excel sheets on Aadhar cardholders and cash-transfer beneficiaries in their constituencies are likely to have the edge over those armed merely with recommendations from regional bosses.”
This has led to the old timers in the party getting very uncomfortable with Rahul’s 
laptopwallahsAs The Economic Times reports “A growing worry is Rahul’s penchant for picking teams which party veterans term strange. In some circles, Rahul’s personal team members such as Kanishka Singh, Sachin Rao, Kaushal Vidyarthi and K Raju are jokingly referred to as “aliens who want to do mass politics through data on laptops, just as those wiz kids who led Rajivji up the garden path.”
But whatever it is that Rahul is trying to do, doesn’t seem to be working. The party has lost elections in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Chhattisgarh under his leadership. This means that the party has been been wiped out in the big states of North and Central India. In Uttarakhand the party just about managed to form the government, with the help of independents.
There are several reasons why Rahul’s Toyota Way isn’t really working for the Congress. It is worth remembering that the Congress is a party which thrives on dynasts and their 
chamchas. As Ramachandra Guha explains this in an essay titled A Short History of Congress Chamchagiri which is a part of his book Patriots and Partisans.“Most Indians are too young to know this, but the truth is that until about 1969 the Congress was more or less a democratic party,“ writes Guha.
But after that Rahul’s grandmother Indira Gandhi took over the party and made it a family run concern. As Guha writes in the essay 
Verdicts on Nehru which is a part of the same book “Mrs Gandhi converted the Indian National Congress into a family business. She first bought in her son Sanjay, and after his death, his brother Rajiv. In each case, it was made clear that the son would succeed Mrs Gandhi as head of Congress and head of government.”
While Gandhis were the dynasty at the top of the hierarchy, there were several other dynasties that kept the party running in different parts of the country. And this over the decades has led to the Congress party becoming a ‘property for dealers’.
Bharat Bhushan writing in the Business Standard uses this term quoting an anonymous Congress leader. As he writes “The same Congressman who saw hostile public sentiment reaching cyclonic proportions, lamented, “We are not a party but a property. A party has leaders; a property has only dealers. All the dealers are looking to their own benefit in the Congress. There is no public purpose left.” Now that is the way the party has evolved and suddenly expecting to start attracting public spirited individuals who care about the people of this country is rather naïve.
Over and above this Rahul has made it very clear that he is looking to induct youth into the party. As he has said in the past “our political organisations are designed in such a way that youth cannot enter them…The most important job in Indian politics is to get youth into Indian politics.”
During the last few years, Rahul and his team were working on this by trying to get internal elections held for the Youth Congress all over the country. In the first election which was held in Punjab, with the help of retired election commission officials, Ravneet Singh Bittu, the grandson of the late Beant Singh, a former Chief Minister of Punjab, was elected.
This was a trend that has since been repeated all over the country. Ramachandran gives a series of such examples in her book on Rahul. As she writes “In Haryana, Chiranjeev Rao, son of senior minister Ajay Singh Yadav won the polls. In West Bengal, Mausam Benazir Noor, niece of veteran Congress leader and former Union minister, the late A B A Ghani Khan Chowdhary was the victor. In Uttarkhand, Anand Singh Rawat, son of union minister Harish Rawat won the post. In Himachal Pradesh…Virbhadra Singh’s son, Vikramaditya, polled the most votes in a controversial election.” And this story goes on in other states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu.
So while Rahul might want to create a structure of internal democracy within the Congress, the senior leaders who are most hurt by this, wont let him do so easily. As Ramachandran writes “The results indicate that senior leaders have used the Youth Congress to extend or defend their turfs. By getting family members into Youth Congress, they attempted to get a foot into the new Congress under Rahul.”
The other big problem with this approach is how does Rahul expect members of the Congress to be serious about internal democracy, when there has been no democracy at the top levels of the party for many decades now. He and his mother, who are the top two functionaries of the party, are a symbol of that. So in that sense its really a chicken and egg problem.
At the same time, there has been a lot of talk Rahul’s team using measurement systems to select candidates that will represent them in elections. Whatever they are doing doesn’t seem to be working. An excellent comparison here is with the Aam Aadmi Party which used a lot of data analysis in the recently held, Delhi elections. And it did so over a period of around one year since its formation. As Aloknanda Chakraborty writes in the Business Standard “The AAP…is light years ahead of its opponents in the way it has collected, analysed and used massive amounts of data to identify, connect with and mobilise potential voters for the just-concluded Delhi elections.”
Also, it is worth remembering here that the Toyota Way talks about standardised tasks. Rahul Gandhi himself doesn’t seem to be following that. He likes to take a hit and run stand on issues that he espouses now and then. (You can read the detailed argument here). In fact this is something that comes out even in Rahul’s personal behaviour. As The Times of India reports “he (i.e. Rahul) alternately comes off as aloof and warm to his colleagues.”
Given this, Rahul Gandhi does not come across as a serious politician. To me a appropriate comparison seems to be a corporate scion who wants to be a painter, but is stuck with his or her family business. Ramachandra Guha put it best when he told Firstpost in an interview “He(i.e Rahul) has no original ideas, no heart for sustained and hard work. He should find another profession.”
There are other issues also about the Toyota Way being implemented in the Congress party. As Ramachandran writes “A political party is not a corporate organisation…Election nominations are specifically distributed on a number of factors ranging from right parentage, to money and resources, and clout with influential voter blocks. How would a corporate-style performance management system be able to capture it all?”
Rahul has always maintained that what he is trying to engineer is a long term process. But it is worth remembering that running a business is not always about strategy. It is also a lot about short term tactics, especially in times of trouble. A business which stays glued only to strategy in times of trouble has a huge chance of running itself into the ground. The same stands true for a political party.
Hence, it is time for the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi to cut their losses. As The Times of India reports “Party leaders don’t dispute the need for refashioning the party. Their concern is about the timing, with many holding that the fast approaching elections leave too small a window for the ambitious experiment that Rahul seems to fancy.”
Since Rahul is a fan of the Toyota Way, he should be trying 
nemawashi, which is a part of the Toyota Way. As Dr Jeffrey Liker points out in The Toyota Way, one of the most authoritative books on the subject “Nemawashi is the process of discussing problems and potential solutions with all those affected, to collect ideas and get agreement on a path forward.”
If Rahul wants the Congress to survive, he should now be talking to the party old-timers, before its too late.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on December 10, 2013

(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)