Though Congress leaders are not confident of displacing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, none of them expected their performance would be such disastrous. Most of them expected their number in Lok Sabha this time would come closer to 100, as they return to power in three BJP-strong hold states few months ago.
Congresspersons privately blaming former union finance minister P Chidambaram and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu for damaging the party’s image. Chidambaram as chairperson of the manifesto committee, along with Rahul Gandhi’s young apolitical brains trust, insisted on inserting a clause in the party manifesto calling for amendment to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
While human rights activists applauded the move, it hardly made political sense in the wake of Pulwama and Narendra Modi’s campaign whipping up nationalistic fervour. Voters frequently mentioned the manifesto as a black mark against the Congress.
Similarly, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was infuriated with his minister Sidhu for giving a bear hug to Pakistani army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa when he visited Lahore for Imran Khan’s swearing-in ceremony. Amarinder Singh openly admitted that Sidhu’s campaign damaged prospects of their candidates in the state.
The BJP made capital out of the photograph. Many are too timid to blame Rahul for surrounding himself with inexperienced youngsters who have an NGO mindset rather than an understanding of electoral politics.