The disastrous performance of the Congress party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections has opened up a debate within the party to seek accountability for its debacle. Almost a month after elections, the Congress party still seems clueless as to what led to their embarrassing election defeat under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
However, a Sunday Guardian report has made some startling revelations which show how Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s own team perhaps set him up for the humiliating defeat. The report states that Gandhi scion, Rahul Gandhi decided to resign from the post of president, as he was misled by his own team and was made to believe that the party will be securing somewhere between 164 and 184 seats in the elections.
Rahul Gandhi, based on these superficial reports, seems to contacted his UPA allies M.K. Stalin, Akhilesh Yadav, Omar Abdullah, Sharad Pawar and Tejashwi Yadav amongst others, and offered to accommodate some of them in the next Cabinet. He had even reportedly obtained two letters from a senior legal luminary to enable him to stake claim to form the next government. The Congress party had even planned a victory procession to celebrate the exit of the BJP and had instructed a select few Delhi leaders to mobilise a crowd of nearly 10,000 people outside the AICC office on 24, Akbar Road.
With Rahul Gandhi receiving such dubious assessment from his aides over their prospects in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress president seems to have faced severe embarrassment resulting in a huge loss of face, which perhaps led Rahul to quit from the post, states report.
Interestingly, Praveen Chakravarty, the data guy and one of the most trusted aides, who looked after the election office and data-analysis, besides running the Shakti app, has now run away after the poll debacle. Reportedly, he has been incommunicado as even senior Congress leaders have failed to contact him. Incidentally, he seems to have conned the Congress party by presenting a bill of Rs 24 crores for his services and has not even provided the Congress with the hard disc of the data he had collected.
Chakravarty was the founding trustee of the dubious database with faulty ‘fact-checker’ had also stated that the BJP victory in 2014 was a ‘black swan’ which could not be repeated. His analysis and data were found to be inconsistent with the reality as the BJP not only repeated it but even managed to outdo itself in terms of voter share. The ‘black swan’ managed to get almost 50% vote share, way above the 31% it got in 2014.
Further, senior leaders in the party are suspecting that Chakravarty, who played a role similar to the one played by Prashant Kishor for Narendra Modi in the 2014 Parliamentary elections, could have been a BJP mole in the Congress office. In fact, four of the eight persons working in the Congress president’s office have resigned. In addition to Chakravarty, it is believed that Divya Spandana, another close aide of Rahul Gandhi has also charged the party nearly Rs 8 crore. She has also deleted her Twitter and Instagram accounts.
The report suggests that certain events during the elections have proved that either Rahul Gandhi was of an over-trusting nature or was too gullible in getting deceived by smooth-talking individuals. It was not just limited to Rahul Gandhi, even both Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were also in a false sense of hope as they were convinced that Congress was returning to power.
According to the report, Chakravarty had met Rahul on 21 May, on the day of Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary, and had presented him a list of 184 potential winners of the Congress, along with their respective constituencies and projected margins. Praveen had assured Rahul Gandhi of securing 184 seats, even if turned out to be slightly inadequate, he had promised that Congress would not be less than 164.
Taking this dubious data with all the gravity, the office of Rahul Gandhi had asked Praveen Chakravarty to make a list of nearly “100 first-time MPs”, who he did not know since they had worked at the state level. Rahul Gandhi had further instructed for a separate list of likely losers, which reportedly had Mallikarjun Kharge, Pawan Bansal, Harish Rawat, Ajay Maken etc., whom he wanted to be part of the next government.
On May 22, a day before the counting, the Gandhi sister-brother duo got to work based on Praveen Chakravarty’s documentation. Reportedly, the duo began contacting potential allies and key leaders of their own party. Rahul Gandhi had reportedly called M.K. Stalin and promised him inducting him in the future Cabinet as Home Minister. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar was also contacted to be part of the next government including Akhilesh Yadav, who was also hoping to win not less than 40 seats. RJD chief Tejashwi Yadav’s assessment was that the Congress could touch the five- to six-mark in Bihar, while his party would be obtaining nearly 20-plus. Omar Abdullah was confident that the National Conference could win three, while Congress may go through in Udhampur, from where Dr Karan Singh’s son, Vikramaditya was contesting.
Priyanka Gandhi had even talked to Congress Chief Ministers and had asked them to send the list of potential ministers from their respective states. Two close advisers to Rahul, including a former Union Minister and his personal secretary K. Raju went to the residence of a well-known senior attorney in South Delhi to get two drafts prepared for the President of India. The first draft was specific to the Congress staking claim directly and the second one was formulated to support any of the UPA allies. The two letters were delivered at the Congress president’s office.
The Congress party was so certain and assured of their victory that they had planned a press conference on the day of counting, following which a victory march was to take place outside the Congress headquarters.
Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were not only misled by their data analysts and aides but also by their own party senior members. Prior to elections, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had stated that the Congress could possibly win between 14 and 16 out of 25 from his state. The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Kamal Nath had presented his figure to around 11 to 15 out of 29.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, was the only one to present realistic numbers as he had stated that Congress could win only three or four seats. AICC treasurer, Ahmed Patel, was asked for his estimation regarding Gujarat. He had conveyed to Rahul that the Congress was unlikely to win any seat from there, a matter which displeased the Congress president.
The Sunday Guardian report suggests that the entire structure of the proposed government formation was built on inaccurate evaluation, which was later found to be exactly contrary to reality. Interestingly, Rahul was so sure of victory in both the constituencies he was contesting from—Amethi and Wayanad, that he had asked Priyanka to contest from Amethi, once he vacated the seat.
However, Priyanka’s decision withdrew herself from a possible fight from Varanasi against Prime Minister Modi had upset Rahul’s overall poll plans for Uttar Pradesh. Incidentally, Priyanka Gandhi and her husband, Robert Vadra had communicated to Rahul that they did not begin her political career with a loss. When Rahul insisted, she asked him to contest from the seat instead.