NEW DELHI: Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s leadership faces no challenge despite the Congress losing seats in Karnataka but the party needs to take a hard look at its strategies, party insiders say.
After the Congress tally dropped from 122 seats in 2013 to 78, party insiders acknowledge the party could not connect with the voters emotionally, failed to read the mood of the electorate, bungled by recognising Lingayats as a religious minority, suffered from poor booth management and could not curb infighting.
“We could not manage the caste equations well,” Congress veteran Veerappa Moily says.
Karnataka was the first state that went to polls under Rahul’s charge as Congress president and it was the only big state the party was holding. Besides, the Karnataka polls were being watched keenly for trend spotting ahead of the polls in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
An aggressive 9-phase campaign for Rahul was designed while chief minister Siddaramaiah was given a free hand in managing the polls. “We thought we would miss the halfway mark of 112 by a few seats but emerge as the single largest party,” a senior AICC functionary says.
Congress veteran Ashwani Kumar is more forthcoming.
“Rahul as Congress president faces no challenge to his leadership within the party but the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will test his leadership in forging a winning secular political alliance,” former union minister Ashwani Kumar told TNIE. “The results in Karnataka are below our expectations.” During the campaign, Rahul slammed PM Modi over corruption and even challenged him to a 15-minute parliamentary debate over the Rafale jet deal and the mega bank fraud in a bid to place him on a similar pedestal for the 2019 national polls.
Over the past year, Rahul had asked AICC state in-charge KC Venugopal to revamp the state unit, form booth-level teams, explain the voters about welfare schemes but the efforts failed to convince the voters.
Also, Rahul’s move to project a secular image by visiting places of worship, holding interactive sessions with the youth, and targeting BS Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers for corruption seemingly did not bring the desired benefits, say the party insiders.