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Congress on shaky ground

Congress on shaky ground
Highlights

Congress on Shaky Ground. Rumblings of dissent are growing against the Gandhi family that Congress party, five months after the most resounding electoral defeat in the party\'s history.

New Delhi: Rumblings of dissent are growing against the Gandhi family that Congress party, five months after the most resounding electoral defeat in the party's history.

The Gandhis' troubles are helping Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he seeks to further his agenda of economic and social reform by winning control of the Rajya Sabha.

Disgruntled Congress members pasted newspaper over portraits of the mother-son team of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi at a party office in Tamil Nadu on Monday, after a party veteran shunned their leadership and formed his own splinter group.

G.K. Vasan, a former minister, was the latest in a series of regional leaders to quit the party, which was pushed out of office in May, clinging to just 44 of 543 seats in parliament.

Vasan's departure triggered more criticism of the Gandhis and their perceived lack of introspection.

On Wednesday, Karti Chidambaram, the son of previous finance minister, said the Congress leadership should give state chapters of the party more freedom.

"We must rethink this high-command observer culture," he said. "We cannot wait for Delhi to show the path in every single way."

Congress faced further embarrassment at the weekend when Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, shoved away the microphone of a journalist who asked him about allegations he profited from sweetheart land deals.

Vadra was pilloried for his responses of "Are you serious?" and "Are you nuts?" which became Twitter sensations. Analysts said the incident was a reminder of the stand-offish attitudes that led many people to reject the party in May.

"The Vadra incident simply smacks of the arrogance of power," said Sandeep Shastri, a professor of political science at Bangalore-based Jain University.

CONGRESS FREE INDIA

Modi has repeatedly promised a "Congress-free India" to end the domination of the party. He blames Congress for the country's slow development.

Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party took control of two economically important states from Congress in regional elections last month, and is expected to deal the party further pain in another group of state polls that end in December.

Congress General Secretary Shakeel Ahmad told Reuters the party is thinking about ways to improve communication, including better use of social media. He gave no details.

Modi's adept use of technology was widely credited with helping him win the support of millions of young Indians. Congress has taken to Twitter and Facebook more actively since the election but still has a long way to go.

The party's website promises to factcheck statements by Modi's ruling nationalists "every day". It was last updated on May 7.

In the last seven days, Rahul has been holding meetings with state heads and other party members, brainstorming and inviting suggestions to strengthen Congress in New Delhi. The party aims to increase its membership across India, Ahmad said.

"Recovery of the party is not like an electric switch, it will take time," Ahmad told Reuters at his New Delhi residence.

"We are waiting and watching people's disenchantment (with Modi), strengthening the organisation and analysing why we failed."

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