Congress workers still repose faith on Sonia Gandhi, wary about Rahul era

New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani(dna):Even as the Congress braces up for crowning its vice-president Rahul Gandhi to the topmost most, most party workers who were asked to send their feedback as part of the party’s restructuring process, want Sonia Gandhi to continue as president.

Sonia, in an 11-page letter to all state presidents, had asked for a feedback from district and booth-level workers by February 28, before setting an agenda for the All India Congress Committee (AICC) session scheduled early next month.

While feedback from a few states are still awaited, a number of inputs from many states suggest that workers were wary about the Rahul era.

“Most of the ground workers have not expressed faith and confidence in Rahul and want Mrs Gandhi to continue at the helm,” an insider told dna.

There is now talk of an arrangement, where Sonia will continue to hold the reins by elevating her to a position of patron to allow her to intervene in key matters, leaving routine day-to-day working to Rahul.

A background paper, based on consultations by vice-president Rahul Gandhi with party leaders from all over the country on the core areas, was circulated to state and block units to seek their views for the party revamp.

Stressing that the “revival of Congress will begin from the states,” it had asked PCCs to develop state-specific strategies based on local factors. The document divided into 20 core issues, with the uppermost priority to distribution of power, leadership and party-government interface, had asked views also about accountability, discipline, cadres, political positioning and revival in states.

Parallel to this exercise, the Congress vice-president, it is believed over the past one month, had also sent observers across the country to get Congress workers’ feedback on the mode of the leader’s election.

Many of these observers, mostly ex MPs, were told by workers, they want Sonia Gandhi to continue. The inputs suggest that while Rahul’s takeover as vice-president had ignited hopes among party workers who wanted an end to traditional Congress culture, he has not yet backed any mass leader in any state.

Citing his recent appointments of state unit chiefs in Maharashtra, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir, they have created more fissures rather uniting party workers. Even under his era, most workers say they had to spend maximum time decoding conspiracies to remain relevant.

Instead of talent and spending time to work on ground, party workers and leaders remain ever busy showing loyalty to leaders and maintain networking.

They (workers) have also raised accessibility to leadership. Rahul’s foreign jaunts at critical times were discussed. His foreign jaunts have always been shrouded in mystery. In the 10 years he has been in politics, his once-in-two-months travel abroad has been the subject of gossip in party circles.

Earlier some members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) had taken strong objection to secularism, the party’s core ideology, being discussed. Insiders say that a majority of leaders had pointed out that the party has no escape from secularism, as historically, it has been a broad coalition of SCs/STs/OBCs and minorities.

While at the initiative of Rahul, the Congress president recently appointed a new face – Randeep Surjewala – in charge of the communications department, workers across the country have expressed disappointment at not matching communication standards of rivals, particularly the BJP.

In Delhi, despite Ajay Maken, who was doubling as head of communication department as well as steering Congress campaign, was a pale shadow of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

There is an overwhelming opinion that communication has been a key area of concern for the Congress. Party leaders also admit that neither their spokespersons nor the social media team have been able to match the BJP’s firepower.

They lament that the party had failed to produce a good crop of young spokespersons, although there is no dearth of talent.