Sonia Gandhi was among the last leaders who enrolled as Congress members digitally ahead of internal elections next month. Over 2.6 crore Congress workers have enrolled digitally and another 3 crore have used paper enrolment system to participate in the exercise that is being carried out for the first time in the party’s 137-year-old history.
The Congress exercise comes after a series of electoral defeats in several states and internal calls from leaders and workers for a complete overhaul of the party organisation and leadership at all levels.
Many Congress dissenters have been questioning the party’s election process and alleged bogus memberships. To address this, the Congress made a membership app in which party workers and leaders can enrol through a four-tier verification process.
The app is open only to authorised leaders and only workers are allowed to use it.
The members must go through a four-step verification process – they are first verified by the enroller, then their mobile number is verified with an OTP (one-time password), their voter identity number is verified through the app, and their photograph is verified by the Congress.
Once a member is verified after these four steps, they are issued a digital identity card with a unique code that can be used to authenticate the person. This ID card will be used as the voter card for internal party elections.
Traditionally, political parties run membership drives where party workers and leaders get members to fill paper forms with names, addresses and other details and collect a token membership fee.
But this process was fraught with fake and ghost members since there was no verification process. Also, the paper forms lie in storerooms at local party offices with no way to compile a comprehensive list for internal voting.
The Congress’s process is slightly different from the BJP’s “missed call” membership drive, started during Amit Shah’s tenure as BJP chief.
More than 2.5 crore members have joined the Congress through this digital membership drive from 20 states.
The five states where assembly elections were held recently did not participate in this programme.
Five states in the south – Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh – account for 55 per cent of all members. Maharashtra alone accounts for 12 per cent of all members, indicating the southern states and Maharashtra are where the Congress organisation is still in a reasonably good shape.