The long-anticipated reshuffle of the Congress’s central office-bearers is likely to take place only after the submission of the A.K. Antony report to party president Sonia Gandhi on July 6, ahead of the budget session of Parliament from July 7.
The informal four-member committee headed by the former Union Defence Minister has been meeting party leaders, State-wise, everyday since June 21 at the Congress War Room on Gurdwara Rakabganj Road. The last meeting is slated for July 5.
The committee report will both analyse why the Congress fared so poorly in the recent general elections as well as make recommendations for the future. It is being seen by party members more as a cathartic exercise than one which will yield far-reaching changes. This is because the party failed to act on the recommendations of an earlier Antony committee that Ms. Gandhi had constituted after the Congress’s defeat in the Lok Sabha elections of 1999.
As party leaders are getting an individual hearing with the committee, there has been a fair amount of plain speaking about the UPA government’s failure to check prices and tackle corruption, poor communication of its achievements, its inability to match the high-octane Narendra Modi-led BJP campaign, pervasive factionalism, weak organisation, poor strategy, even failure to connect with the workers and, of course, the people.
There has also been some oblique criticism of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi – that his “gatekeepers” have made it very difficult for party members to get an audience.
Simultaneously, in the five weeks since the elections results were announced, Ms. Gandhi herself has increased the number of meetings with party colleagues from the States. Conversations with those who have been meeting her suggest that while high prices, corruption and poor communication have been cited as reasons for the party’s failure, she has been also been told that Mr. Gandhi’s experiments with primaries and Youth Congress elections have not worked out well.
The role of his “advisers” needs to be either curtailed or he needs to drop some of them. If earlier Ms. Gandhi would tell all those meeting her that they should also meet Mr. Gandhi, party sources said she was no longer saying that.
The Congress president has also been repeatedly told that the party cannot afford to wait till the Modi government stumbles, that it must get its act together as soon as possible. Indeed, many senior party leaders have been advising her that there is no point in attacking the Modi government so soon. She has reportedly told those who have met her that she was waiting for the Antony report to take the next step.
However, party sources said they do not expect sweeping changes — “it will be a mix of the old and the new” and the decisions will be taken by Ms. Gandhi and Mr. Gandhi along with Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.