New Delhi: The next Congress president may have a tough task at hand if he were to implement Rahul Gandhi’s unambiguous assertion in his farewell letter that numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019.
For his trusted lieutenants would be the first in the line of fire if their performance were to be the criterion for their continuation in party posts.
In the wake of Gandhi’s resignation, ThePrint takes a look at the performance of some of his close aides: General secretary (organisation) and Karnataka in-charge K.C. Venugopal, Jharkhand in-charge R.P.N. Singh, Gujarat in-charge Rajiv Satav, Jitendra Singh in Odisha, Dipak Babaria in Madhya Pradesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia in UP (west) and Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar.
They aren’t the only ones who will have to answer for the Congress’ dismal performance, though.
The Congress’ manifesto team, headed by P. Chidambaram and Rajeev Gowda, Gandhi’s backroom information providers like Nikhil Alva, Alankar Sawai and Praveen Chakravarty, and party veterans like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ashok Gehlot, Oommen Chandy, Sheila Dikshit and P.C. Chacko will have a lot of explaining to do as well.
K.C. Venugopal: In January 2019, Gandhi appointed him general secretary (organisation) to replace Gehlot, taking everyone by surprise. Venugopal, a former MP from Alappuzha, chose not to contest the 2019 election. The Congress ended up losing the seat to the CPI(M).
But it’s his failures as Karnataka in-charge that could make his survival difficult if Gandhi’s successor decides to implement the latter’s advice in letter and spirit. It was on his watch that the Congress lost the 2018 assembly elections even though it managed to keep the BJP out of power by offering the chief minister’s post to the JD(S) and forging a fragile alliance.
The Lok Sabha results proved more disastrous as the party barely managed to secure one of the state’s 28 seats.
Ashok Tanwar: Hand-picked by Gandhi to lead the Haryana Congress in early 2014, Tanwar has been the state party chief for five years. It’s on his watch that the Congress has been decimated in Haryana in two Lok Sabha elections (2014 and 2019) and one assembly poll (late 2014). Azad, the Congress general secretary in-charge of Haryana, could, however, be held equally responsible for the party’s dismal show.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra & Jyotiraditya Scindia: The two general secretaries in charge of eastern and western Uttar Pradesh, respectively, had a disastrous run. But they have an excuse: That they were sent to UP by Gandhi just two months before the Lok Sabha elections. Scindia could, however, find it difficult to explain his near-absence from the campaign in western UP, except some joint appearances with Priyanka.
Rajiv Satav: The former Indian Youth Congress (IYC) president is a close aide of Gandhi, who made him in-charge of Gujarat, where the Congress drew a blank this Lok Sabha election.
R.P.N. Singh: In charge of Jharkhand, the former MoS for Home has a lot to explain about the party’s tally of one, out of the state’s 14 seats, despite an alliance with regional parties.
Jitendra Singh: A close aide of Gandhi, the former union minister was in charge of Odisha, where the party won just one out of 21 Lok Sabha seat.
Dipak Babaria: The general secretary in-charge of Madhya Pradesh, Babaria, a Gandhi pick, was at best a bystander in the internecine battle in the Congress between Chief Minister and state Congress chief Kamal Nath and Scindia, who eyed the top chair in MP. Babaria has already offered his resignation, taking responsibility for the defeat.
Nikhil Alva & Alankar Sawai: Gandhi’s backroom managers enjoyed great clout in the party due to their proximity with him. Alva was also one of the many architects of Gandhi’s image makeover on social media. These two ‘apolitical’ personalities provided constant inputs to Gandhi in his campaign strategy.
Praveen Chakravarty: The data analytics department head could be held responsible for giving misleading data to Gandhi, which led him to make the alleged scam in the Rafale fighter jet deal and the proposed mininum-income scheme NYAY the party’s central planks.
All these leaders could be in trouble for their contribution to the Congress’ electoral debacle, but many veterans are also under pressure.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Nath and his Rajasthan counterpart Gehlot, who led the party’s strategy and campaign in these two states, have much to answer for the party’s humiliating drubbing on their turfs: The party won just one of MP’s 29 Lok Sabha seats and none of Rajasthan’s 25.
The AICC in-charge of Delhi, P.C. Chacko, and former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, the president of the local Congress unit, would also figure on the long list of veterans who need to answer for their failures.