Rahul Gandhi was faced with an unenviable task in the Lok Sabha polls as UPA-II was "not a good product" that could be marketed with voters, a party leader close to the Congress Vice President has said.
'Team Rahul' is under fire from certain sections within the party on the charge that it failed to come up to expectations and botched Congress's poll prospects, but the party leader said that the attack was based on wrong assumptions and flawed assessment of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh-led UPA-II government.
"You must remember that UPA-II saw the fiercest rivalry coming to the fore between certain senior Cabinet ministers and tit-for-tat actions by them which was followed by the leaking of the Niira Radia tapes as also 2G revelations. There was also a bugging controversy," said the Congress leader who was speaking on condition of anonymity.
A host of factors led to the UPA-II regime getting mired in controversies one after the other, beginning with the decision on a separate Telangana state announced on December 9, 2009, by the then Home Minister P Chidambaram, he said.
Incidentally, Pranab Mukherjee, then a senior minister who had earlier headed the UPA sub-committee on smaller states, was not in Delhi when the decision was taken.
Dismissing the attack by some leaders on Gandhi's advisers -- something which has been interpreted as an attack on the Congress Vice President himself -- the leader said it was merely intended to replace some people from key positions so that a number of leaders who were sidelined before can occupy the decision-making positions.
On the Lokpal issue, too, the matter went out of the hands of the government the way Anna Hazare and his supporters campaigned. Later, the issue of Yoga Guru Ramdev was also "mishandled", he said, adding that the Lokpal Bill, which could have been introduced in 2011, had to wait till December, 2013.
"It is a wrong perception that Gandhi dictated the UPA-II agenda. Had it been so, he would not have made a sudden entry during a news conference at Press Club and commit the act of tearing up the government's controversial ordinance on convicted lawmakers," he said.
The leader also brushed aside criticism that Gandhi's decision to hold US-style primaries for choosing candidates to 15 Lok Sabha seats had been a flop.
"Thirteen of the 15 seats where primaries were held were the ones which Congress had lost in the 2009 elections. And so it is wrong to say that defeat in those seats has anything to do with the primary exercise," he said.
He said that the Jat reservation, which was cleared at the eleventh hour by the government, had only served to alienate minorities as well as Dalits in northern India, especially Uttar Pradesh.
That was because the minorities had already turned against Jats after the Muzaffarnagar riots while the OBCs in states like UP and Haryana do not see eye to eye with the community.
"How can the campaign strategy, one or two mistakes, or people who took charge of certain things six months or one year back be held entirely responsible for the defeat, the atmosphere for which was building up in the last few years," the leader said.
Displeased with the Congress poll debacle, some party leaders had yesterday called for "ruthless introspection" and voiced criticism of 'Team Rahul', suggesting that they did not understand the ground realities.
The daggers are out in Congress with different sections of leaders engaging in a blame game over the party's drubbing.
"It appears to be a free for all for putting the blame on others," the leader said, insisting that the principles of "collective responsibility" cannot be given a go by.
While a meeting of the Congress Working Committee a few days back witnessed some of this blame game, it is likely to intensify as the party is contemplating holding a 'Chintan Shivir' and setting up a committee to examine the reasons behind their dismal performance.