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Congress leader Anant Gadgil today said that despite suffering severe poll reverses across the country, his party can bounce back and needs to re-work on its strategy like wooing young voters and streamlining its process of candidate selection.
"This is not the first time, Congress is facing defeat electorally. We have seen this in 1969-71 and 1977-78 as well. Congress has a fighting spirit and can't be written off. We need to rethink our strategy. Candidate selection on caste and religion basis should not be the sole criteria. Instead acceptability among masses and merit of candidate should be the focus," AICC panel spokesman Anant Gadgil told PTI here.
The Congress MLC felt need of the hour was to attract young voters.
Gadgil said that a few years back, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had started the process of identifying candidates but it was soon wound up.
"Instead of leaving the job of identifying candidates to senior leaders, the party needs to have a separate set up which can be given the job to look for potential candidates."
Gadgil said presently the authority to select candidates rests with those who have switched over to Congress from other parties and those who have lost elections at various levels.
"Party workers and leaders who have the acceptability among people are sidelined. The trend needs to be reversed if the party wants to make a serious bid to be in the reckoning for 2019 Lok Sabha polls," he felt.
In Maharashtra, where the party lost heavily in the recent local bodies and civic polls, Gadgil said the state was once a Congress citadel and there has been no attempt to introspect on the losses and boosting the morale of workers by the party leaders.
"In Maharashtra, there was no serious bid to fight to
win the civic elections. There was no effort to stop and persuade leaders who quit the party out of frustration over the state of affairs in the organisation. Those who speak out on the need to put the house in order are put down," he said.
Gadgil said he has worked with seven Pradesh Congress Presidents but now the party has forgotten to hold state level conventions.
Such meetings in Maharashtra had laid foundation for important policies like the EGS scheme and cooperative movement which later took shape as national policies. There is no platform for Congress workers for political discussion and brain storming, he added.
"The prevailing situation in the Congress is causing restlessness among party workers like me who have been associated with the party for generations," he said adding that despite being a senior spokesman of the Maharashtra unit he is not informed of press conferences of central leaders in Mumbai.
Gadgil also criticised the trend of the state unit to send office-bearers who are not authorised to speak to media for television debates. "These persons do not speak the party line and cause problems for the party as many people watch the debates on television," Gadgil said adding that he did not wish to name anybody.
To a question if dynastic politics was harming the party, Gadgil said more than dynastic politics, efforts should be on building leaders who have acceptability among the people.
"My father late V N Gadgil represented the Pune Lok Sabha seat for 25 years. During his time 75 percent of the corporators belonged to the Congress. Now we are reduced to single digit. I had to wait for 25 years to become an MLC," he said.