New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi has empowered her predecessor and son Rahul Gandhi’s close aide Praveen Chakravarty, a former investment banker who many party leaders believed misled Rahul on vital issues leading to the Congress’ disastrous performance in the 2019 general elections.
The new cell will have units in all states and will assist the Congress in a range of activities — right from providing constituency-wise data and analysis to help in the selection of party candidates for elections to developing and maintaining “suitable communication system to communicate regularly with party workers and office-bearers”.
“The move seems counter-intuitive, to say the least,” a senior Congress leader told ThePrint. “Rahul resigned but the ones who caused his ouster, his team, seem to not be going anywhere.”
Chakravarty had come under fire from Congress leaders after the Lok Sabha elections as they held him responsible for Rahul’s poor election strategy. It was Chakravarty’s purported “surveys” that led the then Congress president to believe in the growing public acceptance of his allegations of a scam in the Rafale fighter jet deal.
As his survey ‘showed greater impact’ of the allegations, Rahul kept making it the party’s central plank, persistently hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the defence deal.
Chakravarty and former finance minister P. Chidambaram were also the principal architects of NYAY, the much-hyped minimum wage guarantee scheme that Rahul promised and projected as the Congress party’s panacea for poverty and unemployment. It too failed to impress the electorate.
Chakravarty’s elevation by Sonia may dash the hopes of many Congressmen who were demanding the ouster of Rahul’s core team after the electoral debacle.
Along with data analysis, Chakravarty will now supervise the ‘party’s digital membership process along with the development of appropriate systems’ and ‘various technology initiatives’ according to a statement issued by the All India Congress Committee (AICC) Tuesday.
He will also maintain and provide the Central Data Base (CDB) of party members, workers, influencers and office bearers at all levels — including state Pradesh Congress Committees (PCCs) and the AICC. At the state level, the IT and computer departments shall coordinate with the newly formed cell, says the notification.
Party leaders feel that Chakravarty’s return signals a kind of protection that will be granted to Rahul’s team even as Sonia undertakes a rehaul of the party.
“There should be a reward system based on merit,” the senior leader mentioned above said. “We are a political party, not a charitable trust. There is empirical evidence to suggest he failed.”
Others believe that he has been held to account post the defeat. “Unlike before, his word will not be held as gospel anymore,” a second Congress leader said. “Like in my state, that goes to polls in the coming months, he made recommendations for candidates. I heard him, and will take my own calls.”
According to the second Congress leader, the party had invested in the collection of data and could not let it go to waste.
‘Fuelled PM hopes’
Chakravarty came under fire from party colleagues for fuelling Rahul’s hopes of taking over as prime minister. He had claimed that the party would secure anything between 164 to 184 seats in the Lok Sabha polls.
Chakravarty was the brain behind the Congress’ ‘organisational backbone’, Shakti, that was used to determine the issues the party should focus on in the run-up to the elections. One of the mainstays of the Congress’ poll campaign, the alleged Rafale scam, came under fire from upset Congress leaders after the party’s loss.
The party’s disastrous performance resulted in Rahul’s resignation with Chakravarty being referred to as a ‘BJP mole in the Congress office’. Chakravarty, however, had dismissed the reports as “gossip”.