Union minister Jairam Ramesh is back to doing what he does best: working out the logistics for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi has appointed him the convenor of the party’s ‘war room’ to aid and assist the Rahul Gandhi-led strategy committee for the 2014 polls.
According to sources, there is a strong possibility that after the assembly elections are over in December and work begins in all seriousness on the general elections, Ramesh will resign from the Union cabinet and work full time for the Lok Sabha polls.
He had served in similar roles before the national elections in 2004 and 2009.
As the convenor, Ramesh will lead a small group which will co-ordinate election related work, but so far the details about the group have not been finalised.
Known to be a gifted writer, Ramesh is in the good books of both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. He has once again been drafted to look after the nitty-gritty of election management.
The war room, located at Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Road in Delhi, manages election meetings of its leaders, particularly Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. It also manages publicity and ad campaign work by co-ordinating with various agencies, the logistics of public meetings, the media strategy and the preparation of the manifesto.
While there are specific committees to look after each task, the war room co-ordinates these efforts to give a sense of connection and unification to the party’s overall efforts.
The Congress president had constituted an election strategy committee for the 2014 elections, which is headed by Rahul Gandhi. The job of the convenor is to implement the directions of this committee.
Leaders who enjoy the confidence of Rahul are expected to be drafted for party work in the run-up to the elections.
While there are separate groups to look after the manifesto, alliances, publicity and ad campaigns, part of the war room’s job is to provide feedback to the leadership on the various issues raised by them and whether these issues are reaching the aam admi and reflecting their concerns.
Many a times, the issues raised by Rahul or Sonia emerge from the discussions held within the war room.
During the run-up to the 2004 elections, the Congress Campaign Committee, working from 99 South Avenue, zeroed in on the aam aadmi slogan.
The slogan struck a chord with the people, who were fed up with the pro-rich and pro-capitalist policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government.
In 2009, the Congress came back to power on the strength of its social sector programmes and its loan waivers for farmers, leaving the BJP far behind.
For the 2014 elections, the Congress has focused on communalism as its pet theme and Rahul, as its star campaigner, has launched a country-wide campaign, drawing parallels between the ‘communalism’ of the BJP and the rise of terrorism.
Rahul has begun to set the agenda as a test case during the assembly election campaign, though senior party leaders believe that much of the election will be fought on local issues.
In the assembly elections of Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the congress is directly pitted against the BJP, and the ruling party has decided as a matter of strategy to take on the saffron party on the issue of communalism.
It is interesting that after a long time, Rahul Gandhi is setting the political agenda and dictating the political discourse, with parties like the BJP reacting and retaliating to the charges being made by the Congress vice president.
More political developments are expected to unfold as Rahul spells out his line of argument and makes his battle cry louder to put the BJP on the mat.