The knives are out and the blame game has begun in right earnest in the Congress. Outgoing Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has fired the first salvo and blamed Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president J.P. Agarwal for not backing her “enthusiastically” in the Assembly elections, leading to the party’s drubbing at the hands of new entrant Aam Aadmi Party and traditional rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Responding to Congress general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi’s comment that “for five years, the Delhi government and the Delhi Congress were not on the same page,” Ms. Dikshit claimed that she did not get enough support from the party.
But while the differences between Ms. Dikshit and Mr. Agarwal over the last half decade have been an open secret, in targeting him, many believe, she spoke only half the truth. The other half is even more bitter and fraught with repercussions.
Even as party leaders — beginning with president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi — have already called for introspection, what remained unsaid by Ms. Dikshit was that the central party also did not back her.
A senior Delhi leader said this time most of the party candidates did not receive the funds they used to. These funds, which ranged from around Rs. 5 lakh per candidate in 1993 to between Rs. 20 lakh and Rs. 25 lakh in the 1998 polls, did not reach many of the candidates this time.
Then there was no central list of prime campaigners which was circulated. “In earlier elections a list of party central leaders, Chief Ministers and regional leaders used to be circulated and candidates were asked to choose who they wanted to campaign for them. Some candidates who got senior leaders to campaign for them, did so on their own.”
Another general secretary said there was little the party leaders could have done as AAP caught the fancy of the extremely poor and the extremely rich alike. For one, it was a new option; for another it was a fashion statement. Thrown in were a number of government colonies which also voted overwhelmingly for the party.
Leaders close to Ms. Dikshit admitted in private that a concerted effort was on to ensure that she also lost. “A huge pocket of Congress support was removed from New Delhi just before the elections in the name of relocation of jhuggi clusters. This despite her desperately pleading against the move till at least the Assembly elections were over. Some central leaders wanted her decimation in the hope that she did not get a place in the central party.”
There are still others who believe that Ms. Dikshit is being a sore loser. “The seats were distributed as per her wishes, she led the campaign on her own, very little scope was left for the other leaders. The party could only tell the voters that a lot of work had taken place and that is precisely what it did. And now she is trying to pin the blame for the defeat on others.”
The spat has in the meantime ensured that some of the blame for the party’s debacle is taken away from the doorstep of the Gandhi family.