Milind Deora’s measured critique of the Congress’s massive electoral failure isn’t entirely his own. Much of what he said had resonated through the poll campaign, finding sharper in-house articulation after the results were out.
Having lost Mumbai (South) in the recent elections, Deora had many heads nodding when he said Rahul Gandhi’s advisors didn’t have their ear to the ground; that people calling the shots in Delhi lacked electoral experience. He had the house clapping, albeit in silence, when he suggested that those who heeded such advice must also bear responsibility.
Well, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul did take the onus; their offer to resign rejected by the Congress Working Committee. But the CWC’s stock-taking looked per forma and was less than salutary for party persons who contested and lost elections.
A leader who was hopeful of winning but lost eventually had told this writer during the campaign in Uttar Pradesh that top party managers were oblivious to the testing ground situation. He stopped communicating with them as they were either unavailable or unwilling to listen.
Read: Congress leader calls for introspection after Lok Sabha poll debacle
He wistfully said he was in the battle on his own — and not as a Congress nominee — against the BJP’s well-oiled machine. If narratives that are now pouring out are any guide, the story was the same across states where the Congress failed to open its account or had its tally shrink to a single digit.
The apparatchiks in control practised unilateralism, behaving as if they held the high command’s power of attorney, remarked another defeated candidate. Rather than collating inputs from multiple sources, they placed “all eggs in one basket”.
Their non-inclusive approach caused a communication crisis that gravely hurt the Congress’s prospects at places where it could have done better.
In instances more than one in Odisha and Telangana, candidates for parliamentary elections were denied a say in the selection of candidates for polls held simultaneously to assemblies.
“Our rivals didn’t waste a bullet on us. We were in a self-destructive mode,” bemoaned another leader. He said Deora’s was the commonly-shared angst. The sole way forward was to revert to the old system of younger leaders working in tandem with the experienced till they learnt the ropes.
The general view is that technocrats and theoreticians who took control of the party and ran it aground must be disabused of their superiority complex.
Remarked a veteran of many a poll battle: “Paper qualifications have limited use in politics. Putting up a well-drafted note to party bosses is no substitute for putting up a fight on the hustings.”