By Prashant Sood
New Delhi, May 24 (IANS) The Congress needs “meaningful and difficult decisions” to chart its future course in view of its second successive debacle in the Lok Sabha elections with questions now being raised about leadership of party chief Rahul Gandhi and the strategy to take on the BJP juggernaut.
Party leaders said time for “tokenism” is over and there should be more accountability, promising leaders should be groomed in each state and factors that threaten the party’s existence be countered.
The Congress will face another electoral challenge in the next few months with Assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra where the party fared badly in the Lok Sabha election. It will face Assembly polls in Delhi early next year.
Leaders admit that the party has a long, hard journey to cover for its revival. They also said that that blame for the party’s performance cannot be put only on Gandhi as it was a collective effort.
There have been several suggestions that the party should be led by a leader outside the Nehru-Gandhi family but most Congressmen remain averse to the idea.
Former Union Minister Ashwani Kumar said that the outcome of Lok Sabha polls would entail a series of comprehensive measures.
“So the idea is that we must have a very serious introspection on what went wrong. The introspection should not shirk from the conclusions arising out of an honest, objective and credible introspection. The time for tokenism is over,” Kumar told IANS.
A serious review of the many factors that contributed to the party’s defeat need to be made.
“It would be wrong, however, to fix the blame on any one individual and any one factor. It is important for the Congress to redefine itself to meet the political challenges that threaten its relevance and existence as a political party,” Kumar said.
There was need, he said, to conduct party affairs in a more accountable manner recognising the dignity of party workers at all levels and “jettison a culture where the political fortune of individuals depend on a few individuals”.
“There should be collective leadership in true sense and there is need to groom a leader with promise in each state,” he said.
Former Union Minister Salman Khurshid said the party will overcome the challenges and expressed faith in Gandhi’s leadership.
“Much unsolicited advice to us INC leaders who lost. Thanks. Wish it had more grace though. We have all won in the past. Our successors will again in future. Don’t gloat over our defeat. We retain the will to fight on. If we don’t succeed we will pave path to success for future.
“There are moments in history when faith must prevail over atmospherics. When even intuition should not let you budge. This is one such moment for people who trust Rahul Gandhi. Enormity of struggle cannot undermine value of our allegiance. We shall overcome,” he said, in a series of tweets.
While there is speculation of Gandhi offering to resign at the Congress Working Committee meeting on Saturday, such an offer is unlikely to the accepted. However, there is a likely to be a message that the party will not shy away from difficult decisions.
The Congress has won 52 seats in the elections, just eight more than the 44 it won in 2014.
Scoring a nil in 18 states and Union territories in these elections, it failed to make any headway against the BJP in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where it formed governments last year.
Delay in firming up an alliance in Bihar led to it winning only one seat in the state, its poor electoral strategy allowed the saffron party to become a dominant force in West Bengal and strengthen itself further in Karnataka, while nine former party Chief Ministers and its leader in the outgoing Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, were among the losers.
Then the party only won a single seat (Rae Bareli) in Uttar Pradesh with Gandhi himself failing to retain the family bastion of Amethi (though winning from Kerala’s Wayanad). The loss is likely to have implications not just on Congress’ revival plans in the politically crucial state, but also on his own political standing.
The Congress is again unlikely to get the post of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha as it does not have the minimum strength as per rules.
The results also show that Gandhi, who became the Congress chief in 2017, has not been able to galvanise the party to offer a strong counter against the BJP, which has handed the main opposition party its worst electoral outcomes.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])