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Congress should avoid knee-jerk reactions: Milind Deora on Rahul Gandhi’s offer to resign

Milind Deora says BJP had a well-articulated story to tell in this Lok Sabha election while Congress failed to show a ‘credible enough alternative’.

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Mumbai: At a time when Congress president Rahul Gandhi is adamant on stepping down from the top post after the party’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections, former MP Milind Deora, known to be close to him, said leaders should avoid knee-jerk reactions and focus on building a constructive counter-narrative.

Speaking to ThePrint, Deora said organisation and cadre are important in today’s world but having a macro story is even more important, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) managed to crack this by telling a well-articulated story.

“I don’t think in an election anyone should do anything knee-jerk. Winning and losing elections is part of the process,” said Deora, president of the Mumbai Congress unit.

“But introspecting first as to what really went wrong, having a candid introspection, for all leaders in the Congress party, including myself… I think that’s something that’s critical. And after that one can take a decision to do whatever one wishes.”

Deora said he urges all the leaders tendering their resignations to realise that the Congress’ defeat was not limited to a Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan or Maharashtra or any other particular state, but was a national mood with voters sending a strong message that they want to re-elect Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Several Congress state chiefs have resigned from their posts, including those of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Karnataka, after the party won 52 seats, merely eight up from its 2014 tally.

“Nationally, we have to prepare a constructive counter-narrative. It is very easy to criticise, but what are we planning to do? What do we want to offer the people of India? What is our economic narrative? What is our social narrative? That needs to be fleshed out and then it needs to be communicated,” he said.

Deora, who himself lost the election from Mumbai South to Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant, said the BJP got its story right, whether one agrees or disagrees with it, while the Congress perhaps “failed to demonstrate a credible enough alternative”.

Also readHow Rahul Gandhi could have defeated Narendra Modi

Appointment came too late?

Deora was appointed Mumbai Congress president on 25 March, a little over a month before the city’s six constituencies voted on 29 April.

The sudden change in leadership was, perhaps, an attempt to quell the increasing factionalism within the Mumbai Congress, with most senior party members having been against the leadership of former unit chief Sanjay Nirupam.

Last year, a group of Congress leaders had requested the party’s senior leadership to replace Nirupam with Deora.

“I believe if I had been given this opportunity earlier, of course I would have had more time. Would that have led to a very big difference? I don’t know,” said Deora, under whose leadership the Congress lost all six Mumbai constituencies to the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.

“It was difficult for me, certainly, to be given the post of Mumbai Congress president barely a month before the elections when I myself was a candidate fighting the elections,” he said.

“There was no media plan in place, no communication strategy in place and I had little or no time to do that… It was difficult to coordinate for other constituencies and candidates and at the same time fight my own election,” added Deora.

Ahead of the Maharashtra elections later this year, Deora hopes to address two issues to make things right — focus on strengthening the Congress’ organisational base to bring its voters out in larger numbers and have a separate strong story for Mumbai with a local agenda.

Also read: Congress is dying. Here’s what could replace it

‘No infighting in Mumbai Congress’

Factionalism and infighting within the Congress in Mumbai has hurt the party’s prospects in the city over several elections in the past. However, Deora said he saw more unity within the city Congress this year than in all the previous elections he has fought.

“I have seen more unity than I have seen in any of the previous three elections that I fought. In every area there were different leaders, different factions who were supporting the candidate putting aside their differences,” said Deora, son of late Union minister Murli Deora, who had also been the Mumbai Congress president in the past.

For instance, Nirupam was contesting from Mumbai North West, a seat that belonged to Congress’ Gurudas Kamat earlier, but supporters of both Kamat and Nirupam worked together, said Deora. Kamat, who died last year, and Nirupam were famously known to not get along.

“One was concerned whether their groups would work together, they worked unanimously. I saw that in Priya’s (Dutt) area too. I was worried about it. The big thing that I did in the one month after I became president was to try and bring everyone together,” said Deora.

“Unfortunately, even that couldn’t help us withstand the Modi wave,” he added.

Also read: How Indian voters saw Congress – a laid-back party with no leadership & agenda

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  1. Among the internal factors that effected the Congress was its lack of organization, lack of funds, and lack of time. It woke up too late. In management terms these were areas of CONTROL within the Congress. There were of course many areas of CONCERN created by the BJP, which too the Congress failed to address.

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