A day after the Congress debacle in the Gujarat assembly elections, union Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the defeat was due to the Congress' failure to put up a chief ministerial candidate.
Paswan, whose Lok Janshakti Party is a constituent of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), also blamed the Congress for directly pitting party president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against Narendra Modi, and helping the Gujarat chief minister gain stature in the process.
Offering a word of solace to the Congress president, he said: "The Congress had put in a tremendous effort to fare better in the Gujarat polls and it's satisfying that it was at least able to add eight more seats to its kitty."
But his words of solace ended there.
"It was the greatest failure of the Congress that it put up no chief ministerial candidate in Gujarat against Modi. It pitted prime minister and its president instead against Modi, helping him gain political stature in the electoral process," said Paswan at a news conference.
"But the growth of Modi's political stature has ruinous implications for his own party stalwarts," he said, adding, "Why else has the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) decided to anoint L.K Advani as its prime ministerial candidate within days before the Gujarat assembly elections?"
"The BJP apparently knew in advance that a victorious Modi will also affect the prospects of its other leaders," Paswan added.
He blamed "the total lack of coordination between the central leaders and state leaders of the Congress for its dismal poll performance."
Citing an example, Paswan said that on the Congress' plea "to put up a united fight by the UPA in the state to defeat the communal forces", he had withdrawn all his 35 candidates from the poll, and symbolically fielded only one in Daryaganj constituency within Ahmedabad "to register our party's presence in the state".
"I fielded my party candidate with approval of the Congress central leadership. And Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh addressed election rallies with me in support of that candidate, but the Congress' state unit president Bharat Solanki put up his own candidate against his central leadership decision and did not support my candidate," rued Paswan.
Always conscious of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's growing stature as a Dalit leader, he remarked how her party did not fare well in the Gujarat elections.
"Her party polled no more than an average 4 per cent vote," Paswan said, noting that none of Mayawati's candidates won.