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Rediff.com  » News » Yet another PR disaster for the Congress, courtesy Rahul

Yet another PR disaster for the Congress, courtesy Rahul

March 04, 2014 23:42 IST

The occasion at Congress party headquarters on 24, Akbar Road in New Delhi was that of celebration, one that is rare with the party these days. 

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was to congratulate leaders of the National Students Union of India from Gujarat for winning the student body elections in the state.

However, what prevailed was confusion, chaos and mayhem.

Rediff.com's Renu Mittal reports

Tuesday’s PR disaster for the Congress began when, as per normal practice, the Special Protection Group -- in charge of Rahul’s security -- shut the main gates soon after the Gandhi scion entered the AICC office.

The party’s media department had invited journalists to cover the event and called upon NSUI leaders to come prepared to celebrate.

But the SPG wouldn’t allow them anywhere near Rahul and threw them out of the premises.

Tempers rose on both sides. Soon enough, a few cameras were found broken and a cameraman was rushed to the hospital after a cracker, meant to celebrate the NSUI win in Modi’s Gujarat, burst near his ear.

The electronic media, which got the rough end of the stick, decided they had had enough and decided to boycott the Rahul function along with Raj Babbar’s press conference scheduled to be held after the event.

In a show of solidarity, the print media co-operated with the electronic media and took part in the boycott.

The press conference was cancelled.

Senior leader Motilal Vora, who is in charge of the administration in the AICC, came out along with Babbar to speak to the angry journalists.

Both leaders tried to reason with the angry journalists to forget the episode, but the media stuck to its guns and was in no mood to budge.

While Tuesday’s episode was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the debate over the need to shut down the AICC headquarters every time Rahul holds frequent meetings there has gained steam.

The entire premises, which is on other days buzzing with party workers, media, visiting state leaders and office bearers, is sanitised before Rahul’s arrival.

Journalists have often communicated to senior Congressmen their displeasure and sought to convey to Rahul to find an alternate venue to hold his meetings.

But either senior leaders have been unable to pass on the message to Rahul or he simply chooses to ignores them.

According to a senior AICC functionary, who has been witnessing the frequent shutdown of the party office, there are enough sanitized premises where Rahul can hold meetings and where the press is not allowed entry.

These include Sonia Gandhi’s residence 10, Janpath, his own residence on Tukhlak lane, Priyanka Gandhi’s residence on Lodhi Road, the party’s war room on Gurudwara Rakab Ganj road and the Jawahar Bhawan where Priyanka has her office.

But Rahul appears to be keen on using the AICC headquarters.

Whatever may be the logic, the AICC office shutdown is antagonizing both the party workers as well as the media in the run up to the elections.

Renu Mittal