New Delhi: As the Congress settles down to do some stock taking for the disastrous results at the meeting of its top leadership on Saturday, the party can well learn a lesson from the LK Advani campaign of 2009 and its aftermath.
Advani, a stalwart in the BJP, was sidelined from the party unceremoniously after he led two failed campaigns in 2004 and 2009, choosing to pull all its eggs in the Narendra Modi basket for 2014. Gandhi now has also led Congress to two landslide defeats, and rumblings of a change of guard needed at the top.
The Congress chief offered to resign on Thursday as the results showed that the party under his leadership has failed to lift from the rock bottom it had hit five years ago, not even winning enough seats to appoint a leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha for the second time in a row.
While sources said Sonia Gandhi has rejected the resignation, Rahul Gandhi may again offer to resign at the Congress Working Committee meeting on Saturday.
Indications of unrest in the Congress are already out, with senior leaders pointing out that the Congress high command was pointed out that its strategy of making personal attacks was not working, yet it stuck to it.
In 2009, Advani, a PM hopeful, had based his campaign on the slogan "weak prime minister" for Dr Manmohan Singh. The more he attacked him, the more personal the comments got. The public did not buy it and Singh became king again.
Personal attacks didn’t work then and as the present results show, they don’t work now too. The more the opposition attacked the PM, ridiculed him and called him ‘chor’, the more support he got.
Not that Rahul Gandhi and his team weren’t cautioned. When News18 spoke to once Congress media department head and close aide of Sonia Gandhi, Janardhan Dwivedi, he said he was not surprised by the results. “I had cautioned them many times," he said.
Sources confirmed that many senior leaders had been giving inputs from states that the ‘chowkidaar chor hai’ line of attack wasn’t working on the ground. One such has spoken out already after the result debacle.
Anil Shashtri, a former CWC member said the slogan didn’t work and the “negative campaign hurt the party". Now more similar voices in the party may speak out as well.
Sources said when Rahul's team was working out the poll strategy, it had received negative feedback - the slogan would boomerang on the Congress as it had yet to get rid of the corruption tag which led to its rout in 2009, it was told.
And Rafale, the leaders cautioned, was the biggest mistake as it had no legs to stand on as the public sought credible evidence. Each time Rahul spoke of Rafale, the Bofors ghost came back to haunt the party. But few dared to oppose, as it brought frowns from team Rahul.
Rahul Gandhi, and his team, was convinced that ‘chowkidar chor hai’ was resonating on the grund and Rafale had ‘dum’ in it. Although Priyanka refrained from mentioning Rafale in her campaign rallies, her attacks on Modi were personal too, as she called him ‘duryodhan’ and a better actor than Amitabh Bachchan. It was seen as a newbie who was fighting against a senior with no respect for him.
Raj Babbar has set the cat among the pigeons by offering his resignation from his post. This has put the party in a dilemma. If they accept his resignation, then how can Rahul Gandhi continue? And if Rahul offers his resignation, then who is his alterative?
It is this dilemma which has always caught the congress in a net which seems increasingly entangling.