Trounced in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand assembly elections, and caught off-guard in Goa and Manipur despite winning the highest seats, Congress leaders in the four states have their views on what went wrong, who is to blame, and what is the way forward. Here are the voices from the ground.
Uttar Pradesh Congress leaders blamed All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary and in-charge of the state, Ghulam Nabi Azad, for “misguiding” the high command on the issue of allying with the Samajwadi Party (SP). The UP Congress Committee (UPCC) was not taken into confidence when the decision to enter an alliance with the SP was taken, according to state-level leaders who did not want to be named.
According to them, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Deoria-Delhi Kisan Yatra had received a positive response across the state and farmers were looking towards the Congress. By aligning with the SP, the Congress distanced itself from voters fed up with regional parties.
“I have spoken to most of district Congress committee leaders. Everybody blames Azad and poor ticket distribution system in many districts,” said a senior UPCC office-bearer.
Way forward: The Congress should end the alliance and go in for organisational revamp as well as collective leadership model at the state and district level, according to state-level leaders. Any dependence on a single leader in a district or a region helps growth of a coterie.
In the face of the ‘Modi wave’, the perceived “one-man” show by chief minister Harish Rawat did not help, according to party leaders.
They claimed the Congress state unit failed to match the quantum of resources put in by the BJP for its campaigning blitzkrieg.
A few leaders admitted their government failed to showcase their development work and policies and did not connect with people.
They also rued the lack of a second line of leadership. After the exit of senior party leaders over the past one year, the Congress lacked a second line of leadership on most of those seats. Party members blamed Rawat for preventing a second line of leadership from emerging.
Way forward: Rawat said, “We certainly lacked in resources as compared to the quantum (of resources) which was pumped into the state for winning the elections by the BJP. We will soon carry out a detailed review of the party’s performance in the assembly polls.”
Congress leaders blamed the post-poll debacle on failure to take a decision despite emerging as the single largest party. Instead of announcing the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader, it continued to delay the process, taking the allegiance of Goa Forward and independent MLAs for granted.
Not announcing an alliance hurt. While Manohar Parrikar, right after the declaration of the results, hinted at the BJP allying with the MGP and said they would be able to prove majority, the Congress leadership remained silent.
Infighting for the post of the CM is the main reason why Congress lost out to the BJP despite being short of only four seats, according to local leaders. According to sources, the Congress could not decide in the face of pressure put by different camps backing Digambar Kamat and Luizinho Faleiro for the CM’s post.
Failure to communicate the decision of the party has rankled many. It was only after the BJP had announced an alliance at 8.30 pm on March 12 that the Congress was finally able to make Babu Kavalekar the CLP leader.
Vijay Sardesai of Goa Forward, which has three seats, told mediapersons, “I know a lot of people won’t be happy with our choice of siding with the BJP, but the Congress disappointed us with their sheer lack of decision making.”
Newly elected Congress MLAs blamed BJP’s “money power” and “faulty EVMs” for their party’s failure to get a majority, and insisted they planned to carry on efforts to form the government.
“They (BJP) indulged in all sort of tricks. They kidnapped the Independent MLA from Jiribam, Ahsab Uddin, who was planning to support us. They also pumped in lot of money to influence MLAs from other parties,” said A Mirabai Devi, Congress’s lone woman legislator who won from Patsoi.
“The role of EVMs was doubtful in some areas. Even in places where there are no BJP supporters, the party managed to secure a lot of votes. The outcome can be swung by as much as 20% by tampering with the machines,” claimed Y Surchandra Singh, who retained his Kakching seat.
The Congress is formulating a strategy to defeat the BJP in the floor test expected in the next few days. Efforts are on to influence BJP legislators who may be unhappy with the selection of ministers.
“This (BJP) government isn’t going to last. We will continue efforts to form government,” said Devi.
(With inputs from Umesh Raghuvanshi, Neha Pant, Anupam Trivedi, Nida Khan and Utpal Parashar )