Congress president Sonia Gandhi is campaigning harder than she ever has, covering 11 constituencies and travelling 250 km a day over a fortnight. She has taken the battle into the enemy camp, relentlessly targeting Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and aiming at the BJP's soft underbelly—unemployment, communalism and 'anti-poor' divestment programme. While she is treating Lok Sabha 2004 as a do-or-die battle, her generals seem to have a more complacent view.
The party's second line of leadership is busy taking potshots at each other rather than attacking the BJP—ticket distribution and whisper campaigns being the favourite weapons in this feud within the Congress parivar. General secretaries Ambika Soni, Kamal Nath, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel, in particular, have come in for ferocious criticism from party workers. "The party may not be in fighting trim, but it is 'infighting'," quipped a Congress leader.
The new coterie of Kamal Nath, Patel and Soni do not see eye to eye with the erstwhile Congress (T), comprising Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit and CWC members Arjun Singh, M.L. Fotedar and Natwar Singh. Likewise, the party's three minority leaders—Azad, Patel and Salman Khursheed—have locked horns with each other as have the party's legal eagles, Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi. The media team, too, is at daggers' drawn, with economy whiz Jairam Ramesh targeting spokesperson Anand Sharma and IPAN chief Rajiv Desai, as well as the entire AICC media set-up. At the state level, the scene is even more messy. Kamal Nath is pulling down former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijay Singh. Patel and Soni are targeting Dikshit.
Sometimes, the party has to pay the price, Andhra Pradesh being a case in point. The Congress hopes to substantially improve its tally in the state, but infighting has threatened its prospects. Last fortnight, angry...