The strategy of pitching the Lok Sabha polls as a battle between secularism and communalism, perceived minority appeasement by the party, strong anti-incumbency against chief ministers and lack of coordination between central and state leaderships were responsible for the Congress’ rout in the general elections, an internal party committee has said.
The four-member panel — headed by former defence minister AK Antony — was set up by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi soon after the party slumped to its worst-ever Lok Sabha tally of 44 seats. After the poll debacle, many leaders had openly blamed Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and his team of advisers for an "uninspiring and lacklustre" campaign and "faulty distribution" of tickets.
On Thursday, Antony submitted the report to Sonia Gandhi, leading to clamour within the party for the findings to be made public. "The report should at least be circulated among party leaders and workers," a senior leader said. "Only then, we will be able to debate and correct our shortcomings." As widely expected, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were absolved of any responsibility for the poll drubbing.
The panel found that fighting the polls on a ‘secularism versus communalism’ plank hurt the Congress that was identified as pro-minority, resulting in substantial electoral gains for the BJP. The Congress also failed to drive home the point that minority and majority communalism were equally dangerous for the country, party sources quoting details of the findings told HT.
The party’s minority-appeasement policy also proved counter-productive, the committee submitted. While frequent statements of some Congress leaders on the Muslim quota antagonised and alienated the majority community, the panel noted that the minority community, too, doubted the Congress’ intentions, arguing that there was a huge gap between programmes announced by the UPA and their actual delivery on the ground.
The report further contended that central and state leaders failed to counter the BJP’s aggressive campaign effectively. Many general secretaries rarely visited states under their charge, the findings said, adding that the party tally could have improved had some "chief ministers and state presidents been replaced a year or so before the polls".
Other reasons for the loss cited by the committee were failure of the party organisation to communicate the UPA government’s achievements and a hostile media.