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Rediff.com  » News » Congressmen want Rahul to go, but will he?

Congressmen want Rahul to go, but will he?

May 17, 2014 17:30 IST

Rahul Gandhi at a meeting with Koli fishermen in Mumbai. Photograph: Sahil Salvi'There is anger against Rahul and this will become obvious in the days ahead.'

'He tried to run the party like a corporate.'

'He has been successful in wiping out the party from large parts of the country.'

Within the Congress party there is extreme anger at Rahul Gandhi's style of politics. Renu Mittal reports.

Chief ministers of Congress-ruled states have offered their resignations to party President Sonia, taking responsibility for the debacle. But there is no word yet whether Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi will resign.

The Congress won less than 50 Lok Sabha seats and were wiped out in seven states.

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There is extreme anger within the party against Rahul Gandhi and the team he assembled to run the 2014 election campaign. This anger will find voice in the days ahead, both in the states and at the Centre.

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi made a brief appearance at the All India Congress Committee headquarters at 24, Akbar Road on Friday afternoon where both mother and son took responsibility for the rout, but beyond that, said nothing.

Rahul was seen smiling during the presser, probably in a bid to put up a brave face, but when the media wanted to ask questions, his protective mother said a firm "No" and whisked him away.

A meeting of the Congress Working Committee will be held next week. Congress leaders say the attack against Rahul is expected from both senior leaders, who are unhappy with his style and at being sidelined within the party, as well as from the young guns.

"There is anger against the vice-president," a young Congress leader told Rediff.com, "and this will become obvious in the days ahead."

Will this anger be severe enough to become a full-scale rebellion or will it limit itself to just building pressure on Rahul to ensure that party decisions are taken by consensus?

A senior Congress leader admitted that the last five years have been difficult for the party with no big achievements posted by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government. Congress ministers and senior leaders, he said, had become arrogant, Rahul had sidelined senior leaders, and there was rampant corruption.

"We were unable to control prices and neither the government nor the party was successful in changing its worsening perception, which had become obvious," he said.

Rahul Gandhi's interview to the Times Now television channel, one Congress leader felt, did "incalculable and irreparable damage" to his perception as a viable leader. "It became impossible to reverse the perception."

Ajay Maken, chairman of the Congress media department and a member of Team Rahul, the leader alleged, was absent for most of the election and surfaced only on the last day to admit that mistakes had been made.

Maken did not have the understanding to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party campaign, party insiders felt.

"Maken had no idea that he and his team had walked into a plan laid out by Narendra Modi, where he began abusing the Congress and they reacted instead of focusing on the development work done by the government or their plans, policies and promises to the people," one leader said.

"Daily briefings were all about Modi bashing and this suited the BJP leader who did not want the Congress to talk of substantive issues, the leader added. "Maken did not allow too many senior leaders to interact with the media, guarding his turf zealously, even though he was absent most of the time."

Rahul, another senior leader said, had a small team managing and running the entire election campaign. "The earlier system of committees working through consensus and widespread consultation was done away with. He did this with the aim to opening up the party and making it more broad-based, but instead ended up giving important decision making power in the hands of a few people who neither had the knowledge nor the wisdom nor the experience to use that power judiciously."

Jairam Ramesh was made the chief election co-coordinator. He was in charge of the war room, but "had no experience of how wars are fought," a senior leader complained.

Ramesh picked the advertising agency which created the disappointing Congress advertising campaign and during the election gave interviews, saying that leaders over 70 should retire. Most senior leaders were already fed up with Rahul and just sat at home during the most part of the campaign, letting him run the show.

Madhusudan Mistry, who was new to the party, was in charge of deciding candidates nation-wide for the Congress, in the process bypassing the selecting and screening committees.

Mohan Gopal and Suman Dubey were the other two "navratans" in Rahul's durbar along with Jitender Singh, the now defeated MP from Alwar, as well as a group of young men and women from Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge who had no connect with either politics or the problems at the grassroots, one senior leader fumed.

"Rahul," said a young Congress leader, "tried to run the party like a corporate, but failed to realise that it was important to take leaders along for such an huge electoral exercise."

"In the process," a Congress minister added, "Rahul has been successful in wiping out the party from large parts of the country and installed a fully saffron government for the first time in India's history, which is not dependent on any other party and which will take decisions with far reaching consequences for India's unity and secularism."

Image: Rahul Gandhi at a meeting with Koli fishermen in Mumbai. Photograph: Sahil Salvi

Renu Mittal in New Delhi