secretive "Congress Strategy Group" has been set up by Rahul Gandhi to ensure that the next government will either be Congress-led or Congress-supported, thereby excluding a Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.
This group is "mining its contacts within the investigative agencies, friendly BJP sources and others, to secure information on corruption indulged in by BJP office-bearers", according to an associate of the group. The source added that the Delhi result showed that "the BJP is as vulnerable as Congress on the issue of corruption". In such a context, he saw "much merit" in the Aam Aadmi Party's contention that there was no difference between BJP and Congress on the corruption issue. He revealed that in Delhi "a whispering campaign was set loose (with information supplied by a BJP faction) reminding voters that (BJP chief ministerial nominee till the month before polling) Vijay Goel had been removed from the Vajpayee Council of Ministers (allegedly) because of doubts over his conduct". He added that "we have evidence that the facts relating to Goel were well known to Rajnath Singh" but that the BJP president as well as his predecessor Nitin Gadkari "were backing Goel 100%". A month before the polls, BJP Prime Ministerial nominee Narendra Modi intervened to replace Goel with Harsh Vardhan, but this was "too late as voter preferences had hardened".
A "number cruncher" for the secret Strategy Group claimed that "as many as 16 BJP tickets were given on the basis of extraneous considerations, including family ties to senior leaders as well as the giving of consideration for securing a ticket". "All but one of such candidates lost, thereby keeping the BJP from getting the four-state sweep that Narendra Modi was aiming at," he said.
These sources claimed that "in the case of several poor choices for candidates in Delhi, the local cadre was less than enthusiastic about ensuring their victory, so that nearly two dozen seats were lost by small margins".
BJP office-bearers have denied that any ticket was given on "extraneous considerations", and claimed that efforts were made to ensure "a balanced and principled list of candidates".
"We lost a tactical battle, in Delhi, but have paved the way for a strategic victory in 2014 (by keeping the BJP out of government at the Centre)," the Congress strategist claimed. He added that "the BJP is vulnerable on the issue of corruption in several states, and we will ensure that these facts become known to the voter."
He pointed to both Nitin Gadkari as well as Rajnath Singh as leaders who were "approachable" and, therefore, vulnerable. "Remember how the honest Babulal Marandi was replaced on a flimsy charge by the BJP leadership as Jharkhand Chief Minister by Arjun Munda after less than two years," the associate pointed out, adding that the latter "obliged several top BJP leaders by giving concessions to their nominees". "In Himachal Pradesh, a vigilance inquiry is ongoing about transactions which took place under P.K. Dhumal, and the facts about this will soon be made public." He claimed that HP CM Virbhadra Singh was being "hounded" by the BJP "because he refused to call off the (Dhumal) probe. However, Virbhadra is no match for certain BJP leaders when it comes to managing media perceptions."
The number cruncher added that "facts are being collated on B.S. Yeddyurappa as well as on two current BJP Chief Ministers" that will "soon become public".
Aware of the anti-Congress sentiment building up across the country, the Strategy Group is working on a plan "to ensure that the BJP tally falls below 175" and to "create a negativism about Narendra Modi so that he will need to cross 220 seats to come as PM. If the BJP tally falls below 220 but above 175, the party will have to offer a PM choice other than Modi."
The source did not respond when asked whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's jibe at the Gujarat CM was part of this strategy of seeking to de-legitimise Modi. "The best case scenario is a repeat of 2004, where we (the Congress) can head a government supported by the Left and regional parties wary of the BJP", while the "default position is a Third Front government backed by the Congress Party from outside", and which may include the Left parties.
"The intention is to keep Modi out of 7 Race Course Road" and the path to this, according to these sources, is "to bring out more and more facts about corruption by BJP office-bearers, so that the huge anti-corruption vote in the cities moves away from Modi".
The strategist added that "soon after Rahul Gandhi is announced as Prime Ministerial candidate, the guns will start blazing", in that charge after charge against BJP leaders will get levelled "not only by the Congress party but by activist groups and others to whom information is being supplied".