Congress' 'war' room in Delhi will be without Ahmed Patel this time.
Congress' 'war' room in Delhi will be without Ahmed Patel this time.

Congress 'war' room abuzz with activity as battle for 4 states, 1 UT draws near

  • The rising demand for the ‘war room’ also coincides with the shrinking real estate space for the Congress in the national capital.
By Saubhadra Chatterji, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 12:30 PM IST

Congress 'war' room abuzz with activity as battle for 4 states, 1 UT draws near

Saubhadra Chatterji

New Delhi: With the elections in four big states and a Union Territory knocking at the doors, the Congress’ ‘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 cell is in so much demand that senior party leaders have to book it in advance for meetings. “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, All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, also manages this prime estate at 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’s activities were spread out in at least five places in central Delhi with separate space for research, data analysis, social media and liaison while the core poll activities took place at the 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 anymore,” said a second senior leader.

The activities at the 15, GRG, therefore, have increased manifold. Officially, the property belongs to a Rajya Sabha member of the Congress. But it has been refurbished as a highly-secured office for the party’s poll-related strategising. While Congress president Sonia Gandhi has never visited the place, Rahul Gandhi has frequently come here 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.

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Such is the level of security that except a few top leaders, no one can take their cars inside despite 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.

While the office décor and the style of work remains the same at 15, GRG, it, however, has forever lost Ahmed Patel, one of the few senior leaders who would come almost daily to the ‘war’ room. One of the office cabins was allotted to Patel, who died due to Covid complications, before almost every poll. After many years, the Congress is going to polls without Patel.

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