Scene 1: At the AICC session of the Congress Working Committee, Sonia Gandhi created a sensation when she said that there was no need to project Rahul as the prime ministerial candidate and that the decision was final
Scene 2: General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi told the media that the Congress did not believe in announcing its prime ministerial candidate but Rahul would lead the party campaign in elections 2014
Scene 3: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is forced to say that his government had committed some mistakes leading to inflation. Sonia too reiterates the same and points out that some problems of the government had led to poor assembly results
Scene 4: Rahul Gandhi tells the gathering that those days when the Congress worker was ignored is a thing of the past. Now Lok Sabha candidates will be chosen on the recommendation of workers
On the second day of the AICC session, Rahul Gandhi when he met delegates from the different states, saw firsthand what he had only heard. Every state delegate had a few common complaints: one, wherever there was a Congress government in power, leaders were not accessible to the workers; two, central leaders treated common workers like untouchables; three organization leaders avoided party workers and indulged in rampant factionalism. In the case of Punjab, Amarinder Singh was so vocal about his state’s general secretary that the poor man had to slink away in Rahul’s presence.
Later, Rahul told the delegates present that their plain speaking had opened his eyes but urged them to stay on and fight. “I am a long race horse, Modi is a wedding day horse,’’ he said, and called upon the disgruntled lot to let bygones be bygone, get their act together, put their heads down and bring credit to India’s oldest party.
According to well placed sources in the party, Rahul asked all state Congress presidents, Congress legislature party leaders and leaders of opposition in various assemblies to send in a report within a week highlighting the main issues that surround the party and which needed to be sorted out.
He also told UP Congress chief Nirmal Khatri that he should pick up 10 Lok Sabha candidates on the recommendation of party workers. Sources say it is designed to weed out leaders like Beni Prasad Verma and Sri Prakash Jaiswal from the list of UP Congress Lok Sabha candidates.There are enough indications that Rahul is now beginning to choose and select potential allies. He has approved an alliance without preconditions with Laloo Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan in Bihar.
The same applies to NCP in Maharashtra. Rahul is said to be totally opposed to a tie up with the Trinamool Congress in Bengal and the return of Somen Mitra to the Congress fold is designed to give a leg up to the party’s anti-Mamata campaign in the state. Ghulam Nabi Azad is tipped to be the Congress observer for Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and the disturbed state of Andhra Pradesh while Madhya Pradesh will certainly go to Jyotiraditya Scindia, who did his level best to pull the party up in the state assembly elections, albeit unsuccessfully.
The other issue on top of Rahul’s mind is the party’s election manifesto. According to party sources, the Congress vice-president is set to take the help of NGOs, self-help groups and common people by launching his most public contact programme to date. The manifesto will be a sum of this feedback that he gets from direct interaction with students and young voters in various state capitals.
In the days when Rahul is out of town, three party general secretaries have been assigned the task of sending all organizational matters to him on an express basis. A war room has set up at Rahul’s 12 Tughlaq Road residence. It is the job of Kanishka Singh, the head of this war room, to keep Rahul informed of all key developments related to the party’s organization during the course of the day. In addition, Janardan Dwivedi presides over a daily capsule which has all the party data that Rahul wants with the help of his high-tech team.
Post the AICC special session, there is a new urgency in the Congress. Programmes are being formulated, deadlines are being set and state cadres are being activated, the catchword being quick decisions. Potential candidates have been sounded off to organize their logistics in the eventuality of them fighting elections. A team of young MPs will preside over distribution and transport of poll material, availability of finance and all matters related to logistics.
According to party sources Rahul is now completely in charge of the party poll machine. His first priority is to draft a well rounded manifesto and by all indications, in the first week of February, unofficially some names could be announced. The pitfalls are there for all to see. It is sure to lead to heart burns, particularly for those veterans, who will be denied tickets. Says Janardan Dwivedi: “To gain something, you have to make sacrifices.’’ The party can only hope that other Congress members, particularly those knocked off the charmed list also take such a philosophical view.
‘Some big decisions are on the anvil’
Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari hints that some big names could be dropped from the Congress Lok Sabha list.Excerpts from the interview:
After the AICC session, do you expect changes in the Congress organization?
After Rahul’s interaction with party workers, it is clear that some big decisions are on the anvil.
It is likely that some big names may disappear from the list of Congress candidates?
It is true that a lot of care will be taken while announcing the list of Congress candidates. This was hinted at by Rahul during the session. He has made it clear that candidates will not be selected behind closed doors and the poll manifesto will be drafted after a due process of consultation with all concerned, not just by a few select leaders.
With Rahul saying that party workers will decide the name of candidates, is it likely that some heavyweight names could be dropped?
Tickets will be only given to those who can win elections. The days of awarding tickets to children of Congress leaders or merely to oblige some one or the other is a thing of the past. Responsibilities will be fixed. For the first time we will be experimenting with 15 Lok Sabha seats being decided by party workers. Rahul is out of the PM race and will concentrate only on the campaign. As in the Congress tradition, a leader will be chosen only after the results are out.