Internal feud, indifferent leadership: Why Congress Delhi poll campaign is yet to take off

Manoj CG
Internal feud, indifferent leadership: Why Congress Delhi poll campaign is yet to take off

A feud is raging between campaign committee head Kirti Azad and DPCC president Subhash Chopra. (Archive)

A feud raging between the state Congress president and the campaign committee head, unhappy senior leaders approaching the high command with a plea to breathe life into the campaign, and an indifferent central leadership — this is the state of play in the Congress, which ruled the national capital for 15 years, with barely a week to go for campaigning to end. Delhi votes on February 8.

The Congress’s insipid campaign in Delhi has already spawned speculation that the party is deliberately going slow, knowing well that the Aam Aadmi Party is better placed to defeat the BJP, its main opponent at the national level. The party has vehemently rejected the charge, but a section of the party feels the central leadership is perhaps keeping away as it does not want to take ownership for a possible repeat of 2015, when the party got zero seats.

Meanwhile, a feud is raging between DPCC president Subhash Chopra and campaign committee head Kirti Azad. Party insiders said the latter and several senior Delhi Congress leaders have approached party president Sonia Gandhi and the central leadership complaining against Chopra, apprising her of the situation and drawing her attention to the fact that the campaign is listless.

“In 2015, polling for Assembly elections in Delhi was held on February 7. This time, it is on February 8. In 2015, by this time Rahul Gandhi had done a road show and a rally. Sonia Gandhi had addressed a rally on February 2. This time, we don't know whether they will campaign at all,” a senior leader told The Indian Express.

Sources said Azad is upset as he believes he has been completely sidelined by Chopra.

Sources said Azad gave a “piece of his mind” to Chopra in the presence of senior AICC leaders, including party’s Delhi in-charge P C Chacko and AICC general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal, some time ago.

Party insiders said Chopra and Chacko too had a heated exchange at one of the meetings of the central election committee to pick candidates. One leader said the two are no more on talking terms: “He (Chopra) fought with him (Chacko); he talked to him so indecently. He also was shouting when the CEC was sitting for (selecting) candidates. He was shouting in front of Sonia ji. She told him he was acting like a child.”

Sources in Delhi Congress said many senior leaders are campaigning at the request of individual candidates. “There is no word from the PCC. But individual candidates are calling many of us and we are going,” said a senior leader.

And unlike in other states which went to polls in the recent past, the AICC has not appointed coordinators to micromanage the campaign. Rahul, incidentally, chose to address rallies in Rajasthan and Kerala while the BJP has practically deputed its entire leadership for campaigning in Delhi.

One leader said the party’s last minute appeal to senior leaders to contest has also sent a wrong message.

“It sends a message we are desperate. It may be a fact but shouldn’t be conveyed on the eve of elections... Moreover, how can you ask senior leaders to contest at the last minute. They were asked to contest on January 13, a day before the nomination process began. You have to sound them out at least two-three months earlier so they can begin the ground work... so three of them — Ajay Maken, J P Aggarwal, Naseeb Singh — refused. Mahabal Mishra did not even turn up for the meeting called by Sonia. Only Arvinder Singh Lovely and Rajesh Lilothia complied as they were keen to contest and had been nurturing their constituencies,” said a senior leader.

Asked whether the Congress was giving a walkover to the AAP, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said “that is an erroneous assessment of the situation”. He said Chacko, the in-charge, has already said that top leaders will join the campaign trail in February.

“From February 1 to February 6, the Congress party, from its highest echelons to its last worker in the last mohalla, will be all out in the streets promising the people of Delhi better governance, a better life if given a chance to serve again,” he said.