After two years, activity heats up at Cong war room
With the poll season here for four electorally significant states and a Union territory, the Congress party’s “war room” at 15, Gurdwara Rakabganj Road, is buzzing with activity after a long lull.
The property with two conference rooms, a few cabins, a canteen and a separate unit for the Congress social media unit is in so much demand that senior party leaders who need to hold meetings for respective states or issues have to book in advance.
“It’s like you have to send a request for a slot in one of the conference rooms. And often you would get a communication that the desired slot has already been taken by some other group,” said a senior Congress leader.
Manish Chatrath, AICC incharge for Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, also manages this prime estate in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi for the party.
The rising demand for the war room also coincides with the shrinking real estate space for the Congress in the national capital. Till two years ago, the party had spread out its activities in at least five places in central Delhi. It created separate spaces for research, data analysis, social media, and liaison while the core poll activities took place at the property on 15, Gurdwara Rakabganj Road.
Now, some of these properties are no more used by the party’s backroom boys, said two leaders involved in the poll exercises.
“Before the 2019 elections, a new operations room was created in a small bungalow in Lodhi Estate. The property hosted key meetings related to strategy, campaign and even data analysis. Every evening, a host of senior leaders would meet there. But now, that bungalow is not used any more,” said a second senior leader.
The activity at 15, Gurdwara Rakabganj Road, therefore, has increased manifold. Officially, the property belongs to a Rajya Sabha member of the Congress. But it has been refurbished as a highly secure office. While Congress president Sonia Gandhi has never visited the place, Rahul Gandhi has frequently come for key meetings.
“No Congress leader, except the general secretaries and above, can enter the place without prior appointment. If your name is not given to the private security guards at the main gate, you will be denied entry,” said another Congress leader handling affairs of an eastern state.
Such is the level of security that except a few top leaders, no one can take their cars inside even as there is ample parking space. A few years ago, a biometric entry and exit system was put in place for the regulars. “The social media team that works from the same property uses a separate gate altogether and their office has been walled off,” said a person familiar with the matter.
While the office décor and style of work remains the same, it has, however, lost Ahmed Patel, one of the few senior leaders who would come almost daily at the war room. One of the office cabins would be allotted to Patel, who died due to Covid complications, before every election. After many years, the Congress is going to the polls without Patel in the war room.