Amethi: On his first visit to Amethi since losing the Lok Sabha seat to BJP’s Smriti Irani in the 2019 general elections, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi Wednesday told party functionaries that he doesn’t blame voters for his defeat but local leaders who had stayed away from people.
Many party functionaries however sounded wary about his promises of change.
“Rahul ji said that the sangathan (the organisation) was responsible for the election defeat, not voters,” said a party worker, who attended the meeting with the Congress president.
Rahul’s interaction with the party’s booth-level workers and local leaders was laced with emotional appeals of how he regarded Amethi as an extension of his family. He projected himself as an “aam Congress man and not a naamdaar” — a label Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeatedly threw at him.
‘Amethi is family’
Having suffered an embarrassing defeat in Amethi, Rahul’s first set of meetings with party leaders and workers here saw him define the district as a “part of his family”.
A Congress worker, who attended the Amethi meeting, defined Rahul’s association with Amethi as an “emotional relationship” while another spoke about how the Congress president will continue to be a part of Amethi’s partner in “sukh aur dukh” (good and bad times).
“Rahul said that even though he is an MP from Wayanad, he will continue to work for Amethi and its people,” said Congress MLC Deepak Singh, following the hour-long meeting in Gauriganj area of the district.
Rahul’s visit comes at a time when the Congress is grappling with a severe leadership crisis after his resignation as the party chief on 3 July. He had first offered to resign as president of the Indian National Congress at a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meet on 25 May, two days after the party’s devastating defeat in the elections.
This offer was followed by a high-octane drama — from CWC’s refusal to accept the resignation, to a spate of mass resignations by the party’s Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) members and other leaders, and a party worker even attempting to commit suicide.
Rahul’s resignation also coincides with his effort to re-invent his image and that of the party’s to emerge as a credible alternative before the people.
Several leaders in the Amethi gathering also requested Rahul to withdraw his resignation. But a blame game ensued soon among party functionaries over who was to blame for the leader’s embarrassing defeat. In the end, Gandhi made the oft-repeated promise of overhauling the party structure in Amethi as well as the state.
MLA Singh also said that Rahul, during Wednesday’s meeting, blamed the party’s “overconfidence” and alleged misuse of the state machinery by BJP as key reasons behind its defeat.
Many other workers also called local leaders out for their “dominant” behaviour and inefficiency.
Kripa Shankar Singh, a block president from Amethi, said, “Rahul ji said that the onus of this defeat is not just on him but on all of us. Helicopter-flying leaders and campaign managers, with no connect or support to ground workers, should be held responsible. He assured us that action will be taken against them.”
Incidentally, during their maiden Lucknow visit, Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jyotiraditya Scindia had made a similar promise of acting against inefficient leaders.
At the state Congress headquarters in Lucknow, Priyanka had said “helicopter candidates” will not be given party tickets.
“We have heard such assurances before the Lok Sabha polls and during review meetings held by Priyanka ji in Lucknow. Nothing came out of it then. We hope the loss of Amethi propels them into fulfilling this promise,” said a Congress worker.