New Delhi: Following its dismal performance in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress needs to urgently work out its strategy for the 2014 general elections, start rebuilding the organisation and try to understand the regional aspirations, according to political experts.
"The countdown for 2014 has begun", political commentator N. Bhaskara Rao told IANS. "The Congress should start preparing for the Lok Sabha polls in UP with a sense of urgency."
He said the Congress must accommodate regional aspirations.
Expressing similar views, political analyst Zoya Hasan said the Congress campaign for 2014 should be "positive" and "toned down" as compared to the just ended assembly battle.
"The Congress created a hype in its UP campaign which proved to be counter productive," Hasan told IANS.
Both said the strategy for 2014 should be worked out and implemented as soon as possible to make the most of the time left.
Congress insiders agreed.
In Uttar Pradesh, the party could gain just six seats more than the 22 won in 2007 despite a high-pitched campaign by general secretary Rahul Gandhi.
The outcome was "shocking" and a "wake up call", party sources said. "We need to gear up for the Lok Sabha election at the earliest."
"A serious review of the UP results should be conducted and a strategy for 2014 worked out if we want to remain in reckoning," a senior Congress leader told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Party leaders said the stakes for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls would be high for Rahul Gandhi, who is expected to be projected as the prime ministerial candidate.
A revival of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha, has been high on Rahul's agenda since the party bagged 22 seats in the 2009 general elections, surprising friends and foes alike.
While everyone in the Congress agreed on the need to rebuild the organisation in the country's most populous state, state leaders said the gap between the voters and the candidates was wide.
They said people don't vote for the Congress as there are no local faces with whom they can identify or walk up to in case of any problem.
They also said that while responsibility of local leaders should be fixed for the party's performance, the central leaders should lend ear to their concerns.
Agreeing that the assembly results are a setback to Rahul Gandhi's plan to revive the party in Uttar Pradesh, informed sources said the voter may behave differently in 2014 but cautioned against any complacency.
The Congress has been out of power in Uttar Pradesh since 1989. The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have emerged as the biggest forces in the country's most populous state.