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Rattled Congress takes refuge in blame game

Friday, 6 December 2013 - 6:51am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

  • Manit Balmiki dna

The blame game has started in the Congress camp as the party stares at a debacle when the assembly poll results are declared on Sunday.

Exit polls have predicted a clean sweep for the BJP in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The Delhi and Rajasthan units of the Congress feel the central leadership ditched them at the final moment, in the last crucial days of campaigning.

Many in the Delhi Congress believe central party managers left chief minister Sheila Dikshit to fend for herself in the face of the robust campaigning by the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Arvind Kejriwal.

Though AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed, in charge of Delhi affairs, denied it, the fact remains the AICC was almost absent from the campaign. Even strong candidates received no financial assistance and poll material that the party usually supplies.

Some party leaders feel the prospect of the 75-year-old Dikshit scripting a fourth successive victory proved to be her nemesis because that would have propelled her into a higher orbit. Many from the top brass did not want it as that would mean she could be a prime ministerial contender if the Congress wins the 2014 polls and Rahul Gandhi is reluctant to take up the top job.

The BJP had introduced all its heavyweights — Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, and LK Advani — in the final phase of the campaigning.

In contrast, the Congress national spokesperson abandoned the office and the last press briefing was held on November 29 at the party headquarters.

Congress spokespersons were more busy lambasting Modi for the Gujarat snooping row than focussing on the elections. “Our spokespersons were so fixed on attacking Modi for the past two weeks that they had no time to focus on the elections while the BJP bombarded the media with several press conferences and statements on its campaign in Delhi,” a Congress candidate from East Delhi told dna.

The party’s communications department is headed by general secretary Ajay Maken, a Lok Sabha MP from Delhi and a known Dikshit baiter. Dikshit had to hold fort alone, addressing six to eight meetings a day.

Her detractors, however, blamed her for “running her own show” and relying only on her “entrenched MLAs” and chosen bureaucrats. Even Sonia Gandhi addressed just one public meeting in the capital while the prime minister cancelled his sole scheduled rally, apparently because of his engagement with the visiting Japanese emperor.

Rahul Gandhi, initially scheduled to address four meetings, dropped the plan after his second rally flopped.

Rajasthan state leaders too believe they had worst enemies within their own ranks. Though chief minister Ashok Ghelot’s social welfare schemes were a hit in rural areas, state leaders believe the central Congress leadership was not connected to ground realities.

“His (CM) hands were tied. Barring the first list of 70 candidates, his choices were ignored or overruled,” a Ghelot aide told dna from Jaipur.

Another reason that worked against the Congress was speculation that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi did not want Ghelot to hold the chief minister’s chair once again; he preferred Union minister CP Joshi.

Analysts, however, believe that economics rather than the Modi effect has worked against the Congress in the four states. Political commentator Prem Shankar Jha believes the verdict is a protest against Congress government’s economic policies. “As many as 5.9 million youth have lost their jobs in the past two years. Almost 9.1 million women have lost jobs in rural areas. This is in contrast to the 37 million youth getting jobs during UPA-I between 2004 and 2009,” he said.

Also, industrial grown has lessened by 1% and investments have dropped by 70% over the past two years.

Without taking any name, Arun Jaitley, opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, hinted that the Congress should now throw Priyanka Vadra in the ring before the Lok Sabha polls as her brother Rahul Gandhi had failed. “I will not be surprised, considering the traditional thinking of the Congress, if their solution to the problem is ‘if one member of the family fails, let us try another’,” he wrote in his latest Facebook post.

“There is never a last day in the calendar of politics. It is an ongoing calendar. You never lose unless you stop trying. The Congress has stopped trying. This is precisely true for Delhi elections that were abandoned by its central leadership,” Jaitley wrote.

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