Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in a rare interaction with the media, attributed “weak organisational strength”, “wrong selection of candidates” and “possibly price rise” as the main reasons that led to her party’s debale in the recent assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Taking stock of the Congress’ poor performance, a day after the results of the assembly elections in five states were declared, she dismissed suggestions that such an electoral outcome would “further weaken an already beleaguered” UPA. She hoped the coming Union Budget session would see both the ruling allies and the opposition “understand and support” the government.
Gandhi, 65, categorically denied the refrain of “Rahul Gandhi as prime minister”, and said, “The question does not arise at all.” The UP campaign was the second time — after the 2010 Bihar polls — where Rahul became the face of the party in a state election. But the drubbing the party received, upping its 2007 tally with only six seats, led the 41-year-old Congress general secretary accepting responsibility for his party’s defeat in the country’s most populous state.
Gandhi, pointing to the road ahead, said the party had to pull up its socks for the coming state elections in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka. Speaking of the “unexpected defeat” in Punjab, Gandhi said the Punjab People’s Party floated by Akali Dal rebel Manpreet Singh Badal had, in as many as 23 seats, damaged the Congress rather than the SAD.
As for Goa, she stated the people in the tiny Konkan state were unhappy with the Congress regime.
On Uttarakhand, Gandhi was confident that the Congress had the numbers and the party should be called to form a government.
Analysing the defeat in UP, Gandhi said the people were angry with the incumbent BSP -- and looked at the SP as an alternative.
Asked whether a lack of leadership posed a problem in UP, she responded, “I would say rather than lack of leadership, (there are) too many leaders.... That is our problem.” Her party, she added, would be sitting down with all Congress leaders in the states to work out a plan and do a course correction in the run-up to the crucial 2014 general elections.
On the Congress’s dismal performance in the family bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli, Gandhi said, “There have been such defeats earlier. People were not happy with the sitting MLAs. The new candidate that we put up in one seat, won.”
She strongly refuted suggestions that corruption proved to be the bane for the UPA. The Congress, she said, was the only party fighting against corruption. “We passed the Lokpal bill in the Lok Sabha.... But who blocked it in the Rajya Sabha?” she asked.
Gandhi met the media after a one-on-one interaction with Digvijay Singh, Birender Singh, Gulchainsingh Charak and Manpreet Singh Brar, who are in charge of the party’s affairs in UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Goa respectively.