Even as the Congress party plans to review the Gujarat electoral debacle at its brain storming session — chintan shivir — in Jaipur on January 18-19, initial assessment by its leaders suggest groupism, failure to project a local face, wrong choice of candidates, lack of sting in the campaign to highlight the failures of Narendra Modi’s government were factors responsible for the defeat. The leaders are amused that party cadres on the ground could not even capitalise on the anger against the Modi government in the Saurashtra region. “The answer to our debacle in Gujarat lies in winning in Himachal Pradesh, where the party fought a coherent battle under a local face,” a top party leader told DNA.
The central leader confided that even after holding review sessions, no lessons are learnt and in Gujarat too, mistakes made in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Goa were repeated. In these states too, local leadership was not allowed to grow, he explained. Keeping regional satraps in check might have worked in the past, but in the era of coalition politics and a weak Centre, it was necessary to have a controlled structure in the state, rather than in Delhi.
Ironically in 2007, after reviewing the Congress defeat in Gujarat, the lack of a local leadership to pose a challenge to Modi was rated a factor. But five years down the line, instead of addressing this issue, the party again went to polls with three camps led by Shankarsinh Vaghela, Arjun Modhwadia and Shaktisinh Gohil.
Party leaders say they would have tasted defeat in Himachal Pradesh too if it wasn’t for the leadership under the five-time chief minister Raja Virbhadra Singh. They confide that a coterie in 10-Janpath had also sabotaged negotiations with Nitish Kumar ahead of the Bihar elections. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had backed out from entertaining Nitish Kumar when told that he would not accept party discipline and may even challenge her authority one day in Chhattisgarh where many leaders joined hands to cut its former chief minister Ajit Jogi to size. In Madhya Pradesh Suresh Pachauri, a Rajya Sabha member and a political greenhorn was projected instead of the experienced Digvijay Singh. The central leadership is still hesitant to ask Digvijay to go back to Madhya Pradesh. In Goa too, the party allowed hordes of leaders to compete with each other.