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Lok Sabha elections 2019: Congress moves its election war room to Lodhi Estate

The bungalow belongs to Rajya Sabha member and former union minister, P Chidambaram. It doesn’t have a big, formal reception counter but offers visitors rooms, conference facilities and ample parking space.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 21, 2019 02:52 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan times, New Delhi
Congress,Lodhu Estate,Rajya Sabha
On Saturday, some construction work was going on at the building where, people familiar with the matter say, some of the bedrooms have been converted into makeshift office spaces.)(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

In this poll battle, the Congress party has a new war room.

The operational nerve centre of the largest opposition party shifted to a small bungalow in Lodhi estate a few weeks ago from its traditional war room, 15, Gurdwara Rakabganj Road (GRR), which it has used for the past 15 years.

The new war room at 80, Lodhi Estate, hosts almost all important meetings related to strategy, campaign and data analysis. Every day at 4pm, senior leaders such as Ahmed Patel, Anand Sharma, Randeep Surjewala, Jairam Ramesh, Praveen Chakravarthy and Sam Pitroda go into a huddle at this bungalow to take stock of the situation and the campaign.

The bungalow belongs to Rajya Sabha member and former union minister, P Chidambaram. It doesn’t have a big, formal reception counter but offers visitors rooms, conference facilities and ample parking space.

On Saturday, some construction work was going on at the building where, people familiar with the matter say, some of the bedrooms have been converted into makeshift office spaces.

The party leaders shifted their operational base from the well-publicised 15 GRR property this year in search of a more private place, away from media glare. The place, tucked away in a leafy corner of Lutyens Delhi, also allows much-needed additional space for the party’s expanding poll network.

War rooms are important for political parties as they serve as a dedicated control room for elections, which have become complex and very tech-heavy affairs. The BJP, too, has a sophisticated central war room in Delhi. Many of the candidates also prefer to set up their own war or control rooms in their constituencies.

The white bungalow, the people familiar with the matter added, doesn’t have the state-of-the-art facilities such as biometric entry and other electronic gadgetry, which the old war room enjoyed in its corporate-style set up.

“It is also because 15 GRR used to have higher daily footfalls. The new place is access-controlled and only a few leaders hold meetings here,” said a Congress functionary.

The utility of 15 GRR is not fully over for the party. The Congress’s social media cell is still housed at that property and many political meetings continue to take place in the old war room.

Congress chief, Rahul Gandhi, and general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi, however, are yet to visit the new war room. Rahul Gandhi was an infrequent visitor to GRR. “Meetings with him are usually held at his office or at the party headquarters,” said a senior Congress leader who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The party has also taken some space in a Talkatora Road property for routine work but none of the senior leaders go there.

The Gurdwara Rakabganj Road war room was set up before the 2004 election and a lot of recent electoral history is attached to the property. Ramesh and Salman Khurshid used to write the party manifesto and other documents at the GRG bungalow. It also played host to the extensive process of Congress and Left leaders writing their common minimum programme for the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government

First Published: Apr 21, 2019 02:48 IST