At formal and informal introspection sessions held for over past few days, Congress leaders are coming up with bizarre theories for their drubbing in the elections, right form blaming the Israeli intelligence Mossad, the Japanese communication agency Dentsu, the RSS and Congress state units. Everyone except vice-president Rahul Gandhi has been held responsible for their crushing defeat.
On Monday at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, general secretary Mohan Prakash dropped a bombshell, revealing that Israeli intelligence Mossad was in league with the RSS since 2009 to bring down the UPA government. Prakash when contacted refused to confirm, saying the discussions at the party forum were not meant for public consumption. Insiders, however, revealed that Prakash's version was that Israel was not happy with the UPA government since it had only limited political relations with Tel Aviv, unlike its predecessor the NDA.
Outgoing finance minister P Chidambaram complainedabout the style of functioning and work culture at the Congress headquarters and suggested forming a CEO-type system as in corporate offices. His grouse was that over past one month, when he visited the AICC headquarters thrice for a press conference, he was received only by the communication department secretary Tom Vadakkan. He could not find any other office bearer at the Congress headquarters.
Many others are gunning for Dentsu, a foreign communication agency which was hired by the party at a cost of nearly Rs600 crore to handle the party's election advertising campaign and image makeover of Rahul Gandhi along with another agency Burson-Marsteller. The leaders want to know how these agencies handled and improved Rahul's image. Leaders confide that chairman of communication department Ajay Maken already had a heated exchange of words with Dentsu India executive chairman Rohit Ohri for a spineless campaign.
Congress leaders admit the party has no future beyond or without the troika of Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka. Their charisma is still unmatched. At one of the sessions, when the idea of appointing Jyotiraditya Scindia to some top post or a working vice-president came up, it was immediately shot down. Senior leaders felt they cannot accept anyone as leader beyond the Gandhis.
Many leaders, however, are gunning for Rahul aides, particularly Jairam Ramesh, Madan Gopal and Kanishka Singh. Congress leader Milind Deora, who had on Wednesday said that Rahul Gandhi's advisers did not have their "ears to the ground" found reverberations all around AICC headquarters. "My comments are out of emotions of deep loyalty to the party, pain of our performance & a sincere desire to see us bounce back. Nothing more," Deora said on Twitter.
Senior party leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi hoped that an "honest and ruthless introspection" is carried out to rectify the problems. He said while whatever Deora said might not be fully correct but "large portion of what he said is correct". Priya Dutt, secretary of party's communication department, who met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday, also talked of a "disconnect" of the party leaders with the people.
"We need to bridge that gap. We need to bring that right up to the leadership. There is a lot of criticism. We have to look at where we have gone wrong in the past 10 years," she said.
There are other voices of minor dissent too rising up about the Rahul style of functioning. Though there is no clear pattern to it, a group of young defeated and winning MPs may try to gain some prominence in the party. Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Priya Dutt may form the core of this formation. Whether they will move against Rahul or try to push him to a different approach and line is yet to be seen.
There is talk of restructuring etc but those are easier said than done in the Congrress. Rahul's radical ideas are as good as buried and he may have to dismantle the coterie around him and move operations to the Congress headquarters for more transparency. It is expected that general secretaries will be divested of powers that will be handed over to the state leadership.
A source said an immediate concern for the party was to revive the party in Maharashtra, Haryana and Delhi, as they were going to polls later this year. "Crushing defeats in these states will further crush the morale of workers," he said.
Another plan is to enforce elections within the party and have an elected CWC rather than one nominated by the president. While there is provision of nominating 10 out of 22 members of the CWC, currently all of them are nominated. While a person like Mohan Prakash, who is in charge of as many as four states, has not won any election, nine-time MP Kamal Nath is not a member of the highest decision making body.