New Delhi: “Mujhe aashcharya nahi hua (I was not surprised),” said senior Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi after the party’s rout in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Another senior leader, Mani Shankar Aiyar, added: “Since the party has done so badly, there was something wrong with the way we conducted and conceived the election campaign.”
Dwivedi and Aiyar were not alone — several leaders, many on the condition of anonymity, have questioned the senior Congress leadership which led it to a second successive general election debacle.
Rahul Gandhi’s team the problem
There were some who questioned the party’s intense focus on the Rafale deal and ‘chowkidar chor hai’, stating it should have concentrated on issues like unemployment and farmer distress. A number of leaders have also questioned Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s team, saying it is completely disconnect with the ground reality. However, they stopped short of blaming Gandhi alone for the party’s disastrous performance.
“People were talking about undercurrent, but it seems the undercurrent went in favour of the BJP. Rahul Gandhi worked very hard, but the decisions that were taken by the party have hurt the it,” a senior Congress leader said on the condition of anonymity.
“Rahul Gandhi’s team is still the NGO-type, jhola waali team, and has no connect with the ground reality. This has to be taken seriously and the party needs to reflect.”
Another leader said: “The Congress is a national party with independent candidates all left to fend for themselves. We have to understand that there were delays right from our publicity campaign to even forging alliances.
“The people who advise the Congress president are to be blamed for this major loss. Also, the party has to stop seeing everything from the secular prism. People have moved away from all this.”
Aiyar suggested that there wasn’t a paucity of options before the Congress ahead of the polls.
“I think we should have had a complete narrative about what the objective was, and I think the objective should have been to defeat the BJP rather than bring in somebody else. One suggestion was made by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee — that there should be one opposition candidate against the BJP — but that didn’t happen,” he said.
“I have been hearing a lot about chemistry having overtaken arithmetic, but because we didn’t actually, build up a nationwide mahagathbandhan, the arithmetic itself was wrong.”
Asked if Gandhi should take moral responsibility, and if there should be a change of guard, Aiyar said: “I am sure he will take moral responsibility. He is an intelligent guy and it is his responsibility to make changes in personality and policy, which would enable us to put up a stiff fight against the fascist forces in 2024.”
On being pressed about a change of guard, Aiyar said: “As far as I know, there is no one in the party who wants to see that change.”
He added that the Congress should “engage and debate rather than resort to demonstration”.
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