While Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra is getting the eyeballs, there is consternation amongst the party as to the dominance of NGOs and Left leaning leaders in the march. As it is after the poll results, despite the Himachal win that evens the scorecard to one each between the Aam Aadmi Party, BJP and the Congress, the focus of television debates was whether Congress is ceding opposition space to the AAP with Rahul Gandhi taking the party up the NGO path. Some Congress leaders were also upset with one particular “jhola-wala” (read leftist) neta, who is very visible during the yatra and who even told the media that the Congress would lose Himachal. And so it seems as if Rahul’s image building exercise may be working for him but it’s not getting any kudos on the ground where party workers are more keen to credit Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and the newly elected Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge for the Himachal win.

No Party at the Congress HQ
Why did the Congress not celebrate the Himachal win by holding a celebration at the party HQ? The BJP held one that was presided over by the Prime Minister himself and got eons of air time. The Aam Aadmi too bagged their moment in television headlines when Arvind Kejriwal himself reached the party HQ to celebrate the MCD win. But there was no such celebration at the Congress headquarters after the party wrested Himachal from the BJP’s control. As Suhel Seth pointed out on NewsX, a tweet from Rahul Gandhi congratulating the new president on the win would have gone a long way in terms of messaging and optics. Though Rahul did tweet thanking the people of Himachal and congratulating party workers for the win. Then again, it would also be interesting to see whom the BJP blames for the Himachal loss—the Prime Minister whose face was there on every poster, or the BJP chief J.P. Nadda who was closely monitoring the campaign and who is from Himachal. So far, this question has not been addressed.

Race for Himachal CM
At the time of writing the Congress was still to choose a Chief Minister in Himachal but the lobbying had begun. Supporters of PCC chief Pratibha Singh even surrounded Bhupesh Bhagel’s car and Pratibha herself talked to the media about the legacy of Virbhadra Singh. If there ever was a self-goal, this was it. For the party high command is wary of regional shows of strength and in the age of Modi, dynasty politics is a bad word. In fact even the late Virbhadra did not have an easy equation with the Gandhis because they were wary of his clout within the state that didn’t need the family name to woo MLAs. Of all the contenders the most sensible was Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu who told the media he was not in the race for the top job. As far as optics go, smart move.
P.S. As it happened, Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu was on Saturday chosen as leader of the Congress Legislature Party in Himachal Pradesh, paving way for his elevation as the new Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel said that the high command has chosen Sukhu as leader of the legislature party and Mukesh Agnihotri will be Deputy Chief Minister. “Oath ceremony will take place tomorrow at 11 am,” he said.