New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi has stepped in to set up a new department to monitor and oversee party’s communication strategy. The group, including some from the old guard, will meet daily and assist the communications department of the AICC.
The decision comes days after fiasco over Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with the Chinese envoy in New Delhi. The new group consists of P Chidambaram, Mallikarjun Kharge, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh, Sushmita Dev and Jyotiraditya Scindia — a clear mix of leaders who are believed to be Sonia and Rahul loyalists.
But what went wrong in the Congress’ highly guarded darbar politics leading to multiple blunders would probably never come out. Whether it was a classic case of Chinese whispers or right hand not knowing what the left hand was up to. But it took a seemingly routine meeting between the Chinese envoy and the Congress Vice-President to bring forth the utter confusion and disarray the party finds itself in.
It all started with a denial of media reports that the Congress leader had indeed met the Chinese Ambassador. Party spokespersons pulled all stops accusing the press of taking plants from the Intelligence Bureau.
A couple of hours later, the same Congress leaders had to eat their words, only to admit that Rahul Gandhi had not only met the Chinese envoy but also Bhutanese envoy.
“Rahul Gandhi was intrigued by the silence of the PM and the government over the China standoff. He frequently meets domain experts for clarity on raging political issues and China was one,” Congress leader Manish Tewari said.
The change in stance, from within the party, threw the internal party tiff out in the open. It was laid out on the table for the opponents to feed on. Different versions of the party, over a meeting, which the party termed was ‘normal’, proved to be a major slip. But how did it happen?
As the Chinese embassy put out an official statement about the Congress heir meeting Ambassador Luo Zhaohui, the party scuttled to deny it. Sources told that Gandhi was unaware that his party was denying the meeting.
“He was very upset that the party had denied the meeting. He knew the meeting could not be hidden for long so there was no reason for the party to deny any such meeting,” sources added. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is also said to have expressed her displeasure at the party bras for trying to hide facts about the meeting.
Sources also told that the Congress vice president has pulled up many people, who initially decided to deny the meeting. Amid these concerns, the party has gone into damage control mode. Senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala and Manish Tewari tried their best to save the party’s and their leader’s face. But was it enough? Maybe not.
While the party took to social media to take jibes at the government over its silence on the India-China standoff, the opportunity to question the government was lost.
Can the Congress come out of this self-goal? From what we see of Rahul Gandhi on Twitter, it seems the young leader sees nothing wrong in meeting the Chinese envoy. “It’s my job to be aware of situations,” he said. Yes, indeed. The young leader, however, must make sure his party is on the same page.
Does this also indicate that top bosses have lost faith in the existing communications department? “No”, says a source. “They are there to assist but these people are experts in their field and can help improve our stand against BJP and also ensure that we all are on same page”.
Congress is a status quoist party. The party leadership is inherently reticent. There is a feeling in the Congress now that both the leadership and the party need to talk more. More importantly, talk righ