War room shows Cong shift

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  • Published 14.03.14

New Delhi, March 13: Rahul Gandhi’s control over the Congress’s election management process is so complete that his team has opened a parallel war room, rendering the old one largely redundant.

The old war room in Gurdwara Raqabgunj Road, run by Sonia Gandhi’s lieutenants under Jairam Ramesh’s charge, still exists but the real one now operates from Rahul’s home in Tughlaq Lane and Jawahar Bhavan.

It is being managed by young Haryana minister and party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.

Some in the party believe that the parallel arrangement has left many Congress veterans almost jobless. Sources have indicated in the past few days that several senior leaders who were in positions of command in Sonia’s set-up are not so deeply involved now.

“The disconnect is visible,” a source said.

The election management committee headed by Rahul that Sonia formed last November, and which includes senior leaders, still meets at least once a week and is probably the only institutional link between the two teams.

This committee includes Ahmed Patel, A.K. Antony, Janardan Dwivedi, Digvijaya Singh, Madhusudan Mistry, Ramesh and Ajay Maken.

Sources say the real election management is, however, being done by Rahul’s team. His sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is playing a key role, and the other important players are Kanishka Singh, Mohan Gopal, Surjewala and Jitendra Singh.

The only political functionaries from the All India Congress Committee who are regularly involved are Ramesh, who is writing the manifesto along with Gopal, and general secretary Mistry, who is involved in candidate selection.

Kanishka is an old Rahul aide who heads his set-up. Gopal, who heads the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, is the other key man.

Kanishka, son of former Rajasthan governor S.K. Singh, is a computer engineer with an MBA from Wharton and a stint at the World Bank. Gopal is a doctorate in law from Harvard who taught at Georgetown University before holding several important positions in India.

The others involved in behind-the-scenes election management are Priyanka; Gandhi family loyalist Suman Dubey; the former IAS officer and head of the Congress’s Dalit-tribal department, K. Raju; Priyanka’s secretary Preety Sahay; Sam Pitroda’s aide Mitakshara Kumari; Deep Kaul and Kaushal Vidyarthee.

There are separate teams for research and the social media, in which Sandeep Dikshit and Deepender Hooda are involved.

One team looks after the information repository system, called “dashboard”, which provides ready material to spokespersons. Maken, being the communications head, is also involved.

Some senior leaders claim to be busy with election work and one general secretary asked journalists to contact him only after the elections.

It still seemed strange that none of them was available to discuss the elections and counter the BJP’s propaganda daily at the party headquarters, which wears an unusually deserted look.