Rahul Gandhi and his advisers continued to be subjected to muted criticism today in the senior echelons of the Congress party which is reeling under the aftershock of a pulverising defeat in the Lok Sabha polls.
Attacks on 'Team Rahul' as well as its defence are being carried through anonymous briefings to the media with few of his critics willing to go on record for fear of retribution. The attacks are focussed on his advisors and references to the party Vice President are oblique. A party veteran long regarded as close to the Gandhi family blamed Rahul's advisers for lacking grasp of grassroot politics. The party had suffered because of poor communication, he said.
This comes on top of open criticism of 'Team Rahul' by Congress leaders like Milind Deora and Satyavrat Chaturvedi who had suggested that they did not understand ground realities and called for "ruthless introspection" of the debacle. Outgoing Food Minister K V Thomas said there should be internal party elections in the Congress right from the booth-level.
However, a Congress leader, who is a member of Rahul's team, said the party Vice President was faced with an unenviable task in the Lok Sabha polls as UPA-II was "not a good product" that could be marketed with voters. Dismissing the attack by some leaders on Gandhi's advisers -- something which has been interpreted as an attack on the Congress Vice President himself -- the leader said it was merely intended to replace some people from key positions so that a number of leaders who were sidelined before can occupy the decision-making positions.
The party leader, who refused to be identified, said that the attack was based on wrong assumptions and flawed assessment of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh-led UPA-II government. Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed called Rahul the "fittest" leader for every responsibility. As 'Team Rahul' came under attack, the chorus for bringing Priyanka Gandhi to the forefront in politics grew louder within the
Congress party with at least two leaders today saying she is a "big fighter" and has the "natural ability" to connect with people. "As a Congressman, we wish that Priyanka Gandhi should come to the main arena. She should work with mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi as a team," Thomas told PTI. Another leader Pallam Raju said Priyanka has always been supportive of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
"Whether she will come to the forefront is a personal choice... I think she has a natural ability to connect with the people... It is indeed a strength," Raju said, adding her association with Congress is "integral".