In a desperate bid to infuse new life into its flagging campaign, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has summoned all 50 members of its campaign committee to Delhi.
The Congress campaign has been outflanked and outgunned by the powerful BJP campaign machinery so much that all outdoor advertising spaces have been bought out by the party. This leaves the Congress to announce its achievements along narrow streets and hidden corners. In the big cities, not a single big Congress hoarding in visible.
This is just one of the major issues that has thwarted the Congress plans. Everywhere, there have been problems and failures. The thrust of the Congress campaign was to highlight the UPA achievements and to turn the tables on corruption allegations by blaming the BJP for not allowing Parliament to function so that a comprehensive anti-corruption mechanism could be put in place.
This strategy was revised later to focus on puncturing the Gujarat model of development to dent the image of Narendra Modi. Again, this had to be refocused because it was felt that a government under fire for scams could not talk about governance issues.
Then it was decided to make it a battle of ideologies to consolidate secular votes, a redo of 2004 elections. It was as part of this strategy that Sonia Gandhi met the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid. The Imam promptly issued an appeal to Muslims in general to support the Congress, but his clout is now vastly diminished and may not reach beyond the confines of Delhi's Jama Masjid itself.
Some Congress leaders feel that this strategy is going to work. They point out that the latest appeal from a group of intellectuals like poet Ashok Vajpeyi and Syeda Hamid and from some Islamic organisations will gather resonance. The latest appeal came from the All India Muslim Majlis Mushawarat, an umbrella body of social, political and religious Muslim groups, asking for an alliance of secular votes. The party believes that the other new strategy of branding Modi as a mascot of a section of corporates out to hijack the political system is also raising alarm bells among a huge section of the electorate.
But on the whole, the impact is disappointing. "Even after tying up with advertising giants like Dentsu and Burson-Marsteller, we are still to see any effect on the ground," a Congress campaign committee member told dna.
The Congress problems are mounting with mangers complaining of lack of funds. The party had divided candidates into three sections, providing Rs25 lakh, Rs50 lakh and Rs2 crore respectively. "But this is a meagre amount compared to what even regional paries are spending," a leader said. The joke is that the party has given up hope for this election and is conserving its funds for the next polls.
Problems are getting confounded with neither the theme song nor the party slogan getting recall or repetitive impact. The theme song in Hindi is about the empowerment revolution that the Congress initiated. In the BJP anthem song, Modi gives his voice to the first line of each para.
Congress managers hope that the campaign can still pick up pace soon. They want to believe that "Har haath shakti, har haath tarakki" will resound with more vigour across the country.