The “elitist leadership” of the Congress, including party president Sonia Gandhi and her children, are unwilling to go into the countryside in the Hindi belt to engage with the masses and regain their loyalty. Besides, there are the problems of “overreliance on the Gandhi brand to solve all problems” and sycophancy, which is seen as a licence to “backbite and squabble behind the scenes.”

This is the candid assessment of the internal state of the ruling party conveyed to Washington by the U.S. Embassy in January 2006.

The cable sent on January 27, 2006 (50883: confidential), reported that Congress weaknesses had become evident after the party gained power in 2004: “In the crucial Hindi belt, its elitist leadership (including Sonia Gandhi and her children) are unwilling to go into the countryside to engage with the masses and regain their loyalty. Inside the party, there is an over-reliance on the Gandhi brand to solve all problems. The insistence on outward displays of loyalty to the Gandhis has prevented the emergence of a strong and credible second tier leadership capable of mounting effective state-wide campaigns in crucial states like Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.”

“The coterie surrounding the Gandhis believes that public loyalty to ‘Madam' gives them a license to backbite and squabble behind the scenes.

“The party leadership in Karnataka arrogantly dismissed JD(S) attempts to share power, insisting that Congress should predominate,” the Embassy cabled.

Referring to the All India Congress Committee's January 22, 2006 plenary session in Hyderabad, it noted how 10,000 party leaders and workers went to “extraordinary lengths to demonstrate their sycophantic loyalty to the Gandhi family.” Although Sonia Gandhi herself had requested that such demonstrations be held to a minimum, “participants staged disruptive demonstrations demanding that the party induct Rahul Gandhi into the leadership and provide him a space on the podium.”