Rahul Cracks the Whip, Makes Leaders Conform

Contrary to what is being made out, this year’s election is not going to be a one-sided game.

Published: 23rd March 2014 07:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd March 2014 07:41 AM   |  A+A-

Rahul-Gandhi

Contrary to what is being made out, this year’s election is not going to be a one-sided game. The summer battle of the ballot is turning out to be riveting with opponents trying every trick in the book to remain in the race. Pooh-poohed by the BJP as ‘a political immature’ and hemmed by sitting MPs refusing to contest or switching sides, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi seems to be fighting back with vengeance, drawing out the veteran big guns against top honchos in the rival camp.

Said to be angry about the despondency in the party even before the battle has begun, “caused by mostly senior leaders painting a dismal picture in private conversations and opinion polls predicting a bleak future”, Rahul has cracked the whip. It will be a fight to finish, says an insider, for which Rahul’s “doing whatever it takes, including getting the party chief (Sonia Gandhi) to force leaders to fall in line” so as to keep the party in the reckoning. In short, he has refused to accept that the party could be down and out. “That Congress is a sinking ship is a hype BJP is creating, it’s their game plan and we should not fall for it. If they’re so sure of winning, why do they need to engineer defection and not field their own people? Why are their senior leaders shifting constituencies in UP” — is what Rahul told Congress youth wing leaders and workers he met recently. He, apparently, also told them, “I’m getting some positive vibes here, unlike among seniors.” It is Rahul’s idea that the Rajya Sabha lobby in the party be made to fill the space vacated by the reluctant Lok Sabha members — ensuring the “battle remains high profile” and high decibel. He’s himself been in an attacking mood.

Overruling Ghulam Nabi Azad’s view that he “may contribute 50 seats” if he “campaigns instead of contesting one seat”, Rahul plainly told him to file his papers from Udhampur, J&K, as desired by State party workers.

 “That Congress is a sinking ship is a hype BJP is creating, it’s their game plan and we should not fall for it. If they’re so sure of winning, why do they need to engineer defection and not field their own people? Why are their senior leaders shifting constituencies in Uttar Pradesh” - is what Rahul told a group of Congress youth wing leaders and workers he met recently. After the meeting, he took off his jacket and presented it to one of them - “may be to perk up the mood’’. He, apparently, also told them, “I’m getting some positive vibes here, unlike among seniors.”

It is Rahul’s idea that the Rajya Sabha lobby in the party be made to fill the space vacated by the reluctant Lok Sabha members - ensuring the “battle remains high-profile’’ and high decibel. He’s himself been in an attacking mood.

Overruling Ghulam Nabi Azad’s view that he “may contribute 50 seats” if he “campaigns instead of contesting one seat”, Rahul plainly told him to file his papers from Udhampur, Jammu-Kashmir, as desired by State party workers.

“Despite the fact that Ghulam Nabi takes care of a lot of election work that was earlier done by Pranab-babu,” says a Congress Central Election Committee member. But Rahul, it seems, was adamant that senior leaders who till now were confined to strategising campaigns from the party war-rooms in Lutyens Delhi “with little frequency with the workers should come out” and take-on the big-guns in the rival camp, Arun Jaitley, Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj, et el.

By fielding these prominent RS legislators, sources added, the party loses nothing, but gets maximum mileage. It’s to some extent a repeat of the strategy adopted by his father Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 faced with a similar transition within the party. Rahul is also getting “prominent faces wherever the party is in a position to put a winning show”. The most stunning name is yet to be revealed, a Congress general secretary told Express. A team has been dispatched to rope in a big name in Bollywood for the most talked-about seat in Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi.If that happens, it could be no less than the Rajiv Gandhi’s coup in Allahabad, where he had pitted Amitabh Bachchan against Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, the general secretary added.

But, others in the party say that a “Plan-B and C is very much in place”, which is putting up a local Brahmin candidate, Rajesh Mishra or the local toughie, Ajai Rai against “outsider” Modi. Or even a Rajya Sabha Brahmin to tap into 3.5 lakh votes of the community in the religious city on the banks of Ganga.

Also Read:

'Gujarat's Development Due to People, Not Modi' 

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