The 10-member team has been formed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Leaders often described as the Congress' old guard form the core of the new communications strategy team set up by party chief Sonia Gandhi, which will now brief party spokespersons and others on policy matters every day. The 10-member team has been set up soon after an awkward moment for the main opposition party when it first denied and then had to confirm and defend vice president Rahul Gandhi's meeting with the Chinese ambassador to India amid a stand-off with China at the Sikkim border.
There have been other recent instances where the Congress has been found wanting in its response to issues of national importance and the new team is intended to address that gap. It includes the party's top guns on policy like P Chidambaram, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh and Mani Shankar Aiyar, all former senior ministers, triggering speculation that the party's veterans are back as it attempts to find its feet in time for the 2019 national elections.
The party has said the strategy team will "assist the communications department," whose head Randeep Surjewala finds a place on it as an ex-officio member, as does Rajeev Gowda, the Congress' head of research. The group referred to as the Congress' "new guard," made up of leaders close to Rahul Gandhi, find representation only through lawmakers Jyotiraditya Scindia, 46, and Sushmita Deb, 44.
Congress leaders, however, said that the launch of the communications strategy team delivers on a promise made by Rahul Gandhi at the working committee party meeting recently, when he said a policy think tank would be set up to decide on positions , issues and concerns on a daily basis.
The move comes ahead of Rahul Gandhi taking over from his mother Sonia Gandhi as the Congress president, an elevation heartily endorsed by the party last year at a meeting of its highest decision making body, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) but yet to happen.
Reduced to its lowest tally ever in parliament in the national elections three years ago, the Congress has struggled with the task of being an effective opposition. It has also surrendered several states it ruled in a string of losses in assembly elections, raising questions of the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, who led strategy and campaigns for these elections.
The new team is tasked with formulating a coherent and strong party line on issues of governance and those that concern the common man, party leaders said. It includes the party's leaders in both houses of parliament Mallikarjun Kharge and Ghulam Nabi Azad.