The knives are out in the Congress. Just as the party initiated the process of an organisational revamp with the appointment of five new state unit presidents on Monday, an anonymous email has been doing the rounds squarely blaming Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for the party’s debacle in last year’s Lok Sabha.

The email comes at a time when the Nehru-Gandhi scion is set for a promotion. Although the churning in the Congress over the imminent generational change has been going on for months now, it has intensified after Rahul Gandhi proceeded on a mysterious sabbatical last week.

According to the buzz in the Congress, Gandhi wants to be given a free hand in restructuring and running the party with his own team. The party’s old guard and others who draw their patronage from Congress president Sonia Gandhi are nervous that they will be marginalised if Rahul Gandhi takes over as party president, a move believed to be imminent. They are also angry that they are being held responsible for the party’s humiliating defeat in general elections and subsequent assembly polls.

This divide in the Congress is clearly reflected in the lengthy email that is the subject of an animated discussion in party circles,  although leaders maintain they have no clue about its author and  origins.

Priyanka is the shield

The email upbraids Rahul Gandhi for blaming his mother, who has always protected him. It goes on to say that as a condition for taking over as Congress president, Rahul Gandhi will insist that his sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, be made party general secretary so that he can blame his failures on her.

“Till today, she has stayed away from politics, as her charisma would have overshadowed Rahul,” the letter says. “But then, it could be another strategy of Rahul and his advisors, so that if the party continues to decline, they can put all the blame on Priyanka for the failure. Question is, this will continue for how long?”

The email begins by asking why Sonia Gandhi (in other words, her team) is being blamed for the party’s electoral rout in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when Rahul Gandhi was projected as the party’s face in the campaign and was given full charge of overseeing the elections.

The email says:
 “Why Rahul Gandhi blames Sonia Gandhi for 2014 Poll debacle when:

* Rahul Gandhi was face of the Congress campaign for 2014 General Elections. He was also the campaign committee chairman as well as Chairman of the Co-ordination group formed especially for General Election. Sonia Gandhi was neither of any.

* Hundreds of crores of rupees were spent to establish Rahul Gandhi and his philosophy in form of advertisements across media like TV, Print, Outdoor, Radio and digital. Sonia Gandhi didn't appear in any.

* Since he doesn't like Janardan Divwedi, a special press conference was organised to convey that disciplinary action is still pending against him, when PC Chacko confirmed that no disciplinary action will be taken against Divwedi, and issue is closed.

* All the 70 tickets in recent Delhi elections were decided by Rahul. Result, Congress didn't get even a single."

Free hand for Rahul

The email goes on to dispel the perception that Rahul Gandhi had not been given a free hand in party affairs, pointing out that all key appointments made since his elevation as party-vice-president bear his imprint. The email gives a long list of  the appointments made by Rahul Gandhi and detailed the role played by his advisors like Madhusudan Mistry, Mohan Prakash  and Jairam Ramesh.

The email points out:

* Ajay Maken was appointed as Media and Communication department chairman by Rahul Gandhi in place of Janardan Divwedi.

* All the members of the co-ordination were selected by him, and later Maken and CP Joshi were inducted on his instructions.

* He appointed Madhusudan Mistry as chairman of the central election committee, and made him general secretary in-charge of Uttar.

* In last two years, all Pradesh Congress Committee chiefs have been appointed by him, such as Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan, Arun Yadav in Madhya Pradesh, Ashok Tanwar in Haryana, or Pratap Bajwa in Punjab.

* Even the Leader of the Party in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, was appointed by Rahul Gandhi. This is despite support for the more experienced Kamal Nath, who has previously held the position of Parliamentary affairs minister, and also the availability of the younger Jyotiraditya Scindia. The Congress lost to the Bharatiya Janata Party mainly in the Hindi Heartland, and a leader with good command over Hindi would have been in a better position to convey the message of Congress.

Continuing its scathing attack against Rahul Gandhi, the email lists the failures of his team. The Congress vice-president’s advisors have been the target of a whisper campaign ever since the party was mauled in last year’s general election. This email brings into the open the grouses that have been discussed in private conversations over the last nine months.

Maken is criticised

The email points out that Rahul Gandhi had handpicked Ajay Maken to head the party’s communication department but he failed to deliver. Not only did Maken lose the Lok Sabha election but went on to lose his deposit in the Delhi assembly polls even though he was fielded from a safe seat. Despite this, Maken has now been appointed president of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee.

Congress general secretary Madhusudan Mistry is also a target in the email.

Mistry, it said, was made head of the party’s Central Election Committee and was given the task of selecting candidates.  In few cases, candidate withdrew their candidature after filing the nomination, and either joined the BJP, or stood down in favour of BJP candidates, such as in Noida. Mistry was in charge of Uttar Pradesh where the Congress was reduced to two seats in the Lok Sabha election.

Former Union minister Jairam Ramesh has not been spared either. The email says though Ramesh is “no mass leader and has no mass following”, he was made the co-ordinator for the general elections and was also given the responsibility of “looking after Rahul Gandhi’s image-making campaign”, which bombed miserably.

“After all this, putting blame on his mother, or other senior leaders, who have worked really hard in late 90s and early 2000s to get Congress back in power for 20 years is not at all correct,” the email goes on to say.

Sonia Gandhi’s team, the email underlined, had proved its mettle but Rahul Gandhi’s handling of party affairs and the role played by his advisors had  “resulted in the continuous decline of the grand old party”.

According to the email:
 “This should only be seen as a desperate effort by Rahul, on advice of his aides to save Rahul  from the current failures, and their bid to play more important role in the party. As Shakespeare once said, ‘It is better to be a king in hell than a servant in heaven.’”