New Delhi: Did the Congress under Rahul Gandhi fail to read the ground situation relayed by a section of party leaders in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls? Did the party rely much on feedback from the Data Analytics team for its campaign, precipitating a second consecutive meltdown in the elections?
As the dust settles on what is being seen as one of the most bitterly contested Lok Sabha polls, the gloves are slowly coming off in order to fix accountability within the grand old party. The Congress was only able to marginally increase its tally — from 44 to 52 — in the 540-odd-member lower house.
CNN-News18 has gone through email exchanges between election managers from as early as in February, suggesting a wave for the BJP in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack. The communication also sought remedial and corrective tweaks in the party strategy ahead of polling.
Sources say a few party insiders had flagged with the Congress leadership issues that could trigger a complete rout for the party and its allies in the Hindi heartland, but to no avail.
A key insider sent an email to Rahul Gandhi, saying this would be a major game changer and could wipe out the Congress in the Hindi heartland if the party didn’t do something soon.
An email sent to Gandhi on February 16 said, “This is an opportunity for the Congress to mobilise its work force on the ground and ensure that there are ground-level activities like public drives.”
The mail also warned that “not much would help if people would start believing that change in the government would not be judicious at the time of national terror attack and armed conflict. Instead of just verbally countering them, a smarter strategy would be to showcase to the people that the Congress cares for soldiers more than the BJP”.
Despite this warning, the Rafale fighter jet deal continued to be the mainstay of the party policy. Of the 145 rallies held by Gandhi, barely eight made any reference to national security. And of the eight press conferences Gandhi held, only in a single briefing did he mention the Pulwama attack, and that also to express condolences.
The advice given was to set up camps, go to the border, set up a team of volunteers. Yet, everything was ignored.
Instead, the party relied heavily on feedback by Data Analytics and Operation Shakti, a flagship mass contact programme with a technological interface.
Three months before the elections, on November 26 last year, the first email was sent based on work done by the Shakti app from September to November. Take a look at a portion of the feedback report sent over mail.
“However, the total YouTube views for the http://bit.ly/MODI-DISASTER is only 20,000. It means that most people are not even seeing the videos despite them receiving the SMS and clicking on the links.
We spent a total of Rs 18, 45,019 on this campaign. Out of which Rs 6,63,742 was spent on undelivered messages.
Message was sent to 5,97,739 Shakti users in Rajasthan at a rate of Rs 0.07 (7 paisa) per SMS. In Hindi, 60 characters count as 1 SMS and the following message would require 5 SMSs (274 characters). We spent Rs 2,09,208 (Two lakh, nine thousand, two hundred eight).”
When News18 got in touch with Congress Data Analytics team in-charge Praveen Chakravarty, he said, “…all political parties communicate with voters and workers through SMS, IVR (integrated voice response), WhatsApp and other mediums as relevant. It is nonsensical to claim post facto that SMS communication is a wasted effort.”
Even as the demand for fixing accountability grows, there is no clarity yet whether any heads will roll. Worse, there is no clarity yet on who is the party president. Is Rahul still the boss or will someone else step in?