The massive defeat of Congress is set to put under scanner the advisers and managers of Rahul Gandhi — the team that devised the young Gandhi's campaign and crafted his political pitch. Many of them were hand-picked by Rahul himself.
For a while, there has been chatter among a section of Congressmen — especially the old guard — about the campaign strategy which, they felt, failed to take into account the political realities or address the issues on which the party appeared weak like corruption and weak governance.
In this group are "advisers" on whom the Gandhi scion depended for ideas and advice. Most of them are faceless people who apparently influenced and moulded the thinking of their boss. There are also AICC general secretaries who devised strategies and coordinated with the state units.
Knives are said to be out for Mohal Gopal, Mohan Prakash, CP Joshi and Luizinho Faleiro, while Madhusudan Mistry, Digvijaya Singh and Jairam Ramesh could also face the heat for the party's disastrous performance in UP, AP and Jharkhand.
Chairman of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies, Mohan Gopal, has emerged a key policy wonk in the Rahul camp, and is credited with ideas that proved to be non-starters like focussing on the 70 crore "non-BPL-non-middle class" section of people or for the belated bid to launch Rahul as a crusader against corruption. He was seen as the person who shaped Rahul's media outreach during the campaign which failed to make a splash.
There has been talk in the party against the "non-political" drift of the emerging Congress high command at a time when the party needed to fashion a positive political approach to deal with Narendra Modi instead of merely reacting to him. Many party members believe Team Rahul allowed Modi to set the agenda.
The marginalization of party's war room, which played an important role in the successful 2004 and 2009 campaigns, has been attributed to Rahul's differences with Jairam Ramesh, the campaign in-charge in earlier elections, as also Mohan Gopal's game of one-upmanship with Ramesh.
Ramesh himself is under fire for his role as environment minister that pushed big business towards Modi and brought BJP money and disproportionate influence in the campaign, while contributing to the perception of policy paralysis. His role in the decision to tie up with Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in Jharkhand has already raised eyebrows.
Digvijaya Singh and Jairam would face the flak for party's dismal show in Telangana despite Congress fulfilling the statehood aspiration in the hope that it would offset the anticipated decimation in Seemandhra. There was no statewide campaign in Telangana and candidates were left to fend for themselves.
Mohan Prakash, some partymen allege, has failed in virtually every role that's been assigned to him in the last two years. His vulnerability is compounded by his sudden rise to the key post of AICC general secretary which makes him a target of the neglected old guard. He was earlier assigned the tough task of propping up the party in Gujarat, but was also at sea in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. His utterances against old-timers have made matters worse for him.
Joshi is part of Rahul's charmed circle. His positioning himself as an alternative to Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan is said to be the reason for the disarray in the Congress in the state where the party has been routed for the second time in six months. He is already on the hit-list of the old-guard.
Ajay Maken, as AICC general secretary in-charge of communications, is set to be at the receiving end for what is seen as weak media outreach which failed to reach out to voters. Maken himself from New Delhi.
Digvijaya Singh played the champion of "muscular" secularism which some partymen say actually helped BJP sharpen its "anti-appeasement" attack. Similarly, Kapil Sibal is receiving flak for his aggressive defence of the 2G scam at a time when understatement and modesty might have been better tack.
Faleiro, a nondescript and affable leader from Goa, is in charge of the North-Eastern states. There may be a demand for new ideas to manage the region where local parties seem to be gravitating towards Narendra Modi.
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