A new twist has been added to the military maxim that wars are lost not by poor soldiers but by bad Generals ~ the Congress party is preparing for battles ahead for four state assemblies with its “general” still displaying a prolonged sense of pique following the rout in the Lok Sabha polls a few weeks back.

The Congress president’s disappointment was perhaps understandable ~ was he actually immature enough to imagine that chowkidar chor hai was a poll-winning formula ~ and so an offer to step aside was projected as a highly principled acceptance of responsibility, though those familiar with the sycophantic culture of the party all along suspected it to be a farce.

Now, weeks after making that offer the Congress Working Committee has not been summoned to give effect to his “resignation”, which only underscores the reality that the rest of the Congress deems itself doomed without a member of the family at its joystick. Wednesday’s meeting of senior leaders (no “core committee” exists after the poll, it was clarified) of AK Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, P Chidambaram, Ahmed Patel, Jairam Ramesh, Anand Sharma, Mallickarjun Kharge, KC Venugopal and motormouth Randeep Surjewala only confirms their collective ineptitude: surely a couple of them must deem themselves posited to replace a leader now sulking over his loss.

What message does that send out to the Congress cadres asked to gear themselves up for assembly polls in Maharashtra. Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir? Surjewala might have reaffirmed his loyalty by pontificating that “Rahul Gandhi was the president of the Congress, is the president, and will remain so: none of us having any doubts about it”.

Yet do all Congress workers lack initiative or moral fortitude? Are they all ready to throw in the towel even before the assembly polls are announced? At the last CWC meet Rahul is said to have slammed a trio of leaders who worked for their sons’ election and not the larger success of the party, but they remain well entrenched. It is not that he has remained totally aloof from party affairs: he granted an audience to maverick Navjot Singh Sidhu who is whining after being “disciplined” by his chief minister.

And some key positions in the parliamentary party need to be filled in coming days. After a rather successful “thank you” trip to Wayanad, Rahul could have attempted to reconnect to the voter by joining his mother and sister in a similar mission to Raebareli ~ but he backed off from going within touching distance of Amethi, further proof of his “fair-weather” politics.

Unlike his grandmother who took reverses in her stride, Rahul and his coterie seem to prefer to hide till the “big bad wolf” passes by. Why, even the temperamental Mamata Banerjee is making a fight of it.