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3 senior Congress state leaders ‘offer to resign’ amid growing calls for heads to roll

The offers come a day before the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting Saturday, where the party will discuss its rout in the Lok Sabha elections.

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New Delhi: At least three senior Congress functionaries from different states have already quit or offered to resign, taking responsibility for the party’s second successive Lok Sabha poll debacle, ThePrint has learnt.

While Niranjan Patnaik, the state unit chief of Odisha, has offered to resign, Karnataka campaign committee chief H.K. Patil has already put in his papers.

Sources told ThePrint that Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) chief Raj Babbar has also offered to resign after the party won just one of the state’s 80 seats, but there was no confirmation from the former actor on this.

The offers of resignation come a day before the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting Saturday, where the party will discuss its rout in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress secured only 52 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha — eight more than its 2014 tally, but still not good enough to get it the post of the Leader of the Opposition.

Among the biggest shocks of the election saw Congress president Rahul Gandhi lose his family bastion Amethi to Smriti Irani of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), even as he pulled off a runaway victory in Kerala’s Wayanad.

Since the defeat, knives have been out in the party against Rahul Gandhi’s advisers and close aides but nobody has openly questioned his leadership.

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‘Deep, sincere introspection needed’

Niranjan Patnaik offered to resign Friday, taking responsibility for the Congress’ loss in Odisha, where the party won only one of 21 Lok Sabha seats and nine of 146 assembly constituencies.

While the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) scored a record fifth term in the assembly polls, the parliamentary polls held simultaneously gave Naveen Patnaik‘s party 12 and the BJP eight seats. The Congress had won zero Lok Sabha seats and 16 assembly constituencies in 2014.

Niranjan Patnaik himself lost from both the assembly seats he contested.

“I have offered to resign from my post for my personal as well as the party’s overall defeat,” he told ThePrint.

Asked what had led to the Congress’ loss, he said people had opted for Narendra Modi and Naveen Patnaik.

The assembly election saw the BJP emerge as the second-biggest player in the state, unseating the Congress.

In Karnataka, Patil resigned as head of the campaign committee, taking responsibility for the party failing to win more than one seat among the 20 it contested. Karnataka has 28 Lok Sabha seats, and Congress ally Janata Dal (Secular) had contested from the remaining eight. But the parties won just one seat each, as the BJP swept the state. The Congress had won nine seats in 2014.

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“As the president of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress campaign committee, I had the privilege to take the policy and message of my esteemed party to the people,” he told ThePrint. “In view of the debacle, I feel it is my moral responsibility. Hence, with all humility, I submit my resignation from the post of president of campaign committee.”

The party, Patil added, needed “real deep, sincere introspection and there are a number of issues to be deliberated”.

Meanwhile, sources said UP Congress chief Babbar had also offered to resign, after the party was reduced to one seat in the state, down from the two it won in 2014.

Babbar had taken responsibility for the debacle in a tweet: “Congratulations to all those who won. The results are depressing for the Uttar Pradesh Congress. I find myself guilty of not discharging my responsibility in a proper manner. I’ll meet the leadership and put across my views.”

Infighting in Bengal

Meanwhile, in West Bengal, infighting has already started within the Congress over the selection of candidates.

“There are two factions and already the blame-game has started as to who is responsible for the loss. Candidate selection is a major issue that has emerged,” said a senior office-bearer of the West Bengal Congress.

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  1. Congress spokespersons continue to take the same line as they had taken during the election campaign. The first thing Congress should do is o sack all spokespersons.

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