With pressure mounting on the Congress to name its prime ministerial candidate to take on BJP’s Narendra Modi, its president Sonia Gandhi said on Sunday the party will name a candidate for the top post at an “opportune time”.
“People need not worry as at an opportune time the name of the prime ministerial candidate will be announced,” she said, accepting the poll outcome in four states with “humility”.
Asked if her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi would be the party’s choice, she initially appeared reluctant to give an answer but said, “We will make a statement. The party has to decide. The party will decide at an opportune time.”
Sonia’s remarks suggest that the crushing defeat in assembly elections could force the Congress to rework its strategy of not disclosing its prime ministerial candidate.
Though the party had fought the 2004 general elections under her leadership, Sonia declined the post and instead named Manmohan Singh for the top post.
In 2009, she had made it abundantly clear that Singh would continue to be the Prime Minister if the Congress-led UPA was voted back to power.
With the BJP having already named Modi as its candidate, pressure is mounting on the Congress to bring clarity on the leadership issue ahead of the next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress president said the party was “very very disappointed” over the election results and called for “deep introspection” to look at reasons for the defeat.
“Obviously, the people are unhappy. Otherwise, they would not have given the results that they gave,” she said.
"We have to understand to look at the many reasons for this defeat. We have to look into the way we did not take our message to the people. Also, we have to look at our own party if it is well equipped in running an election (campaign)," she said.
She said rising prices of essential commodities was an issue with the electorate.
"We will introspect seriously and we will take all necessary action... We will rectify our mistakes," she added.
She said the state elections were not good indicators of how the elections will play out at the national level.
“In state elections, personalities and local issues predominate. At the national level, issues are different,” she said.
“In Rajasthan, our chief minister ran several successful schemes. His record of good governance is good, but there again it is a question mark,” she said.
On his part, Rahul, while congratulating the winners, said the party “has to transform itself to stand up”.
“Congress has the ability to transform itself. The people have given us a message through these elections, have heard this message from our hearts,” Rahul said.
“We have to move beyond good governance paradigm to a level where we give space to the common man,” Rahul said.
Reacting to the spectacular success of debutant Aam Aadmi Party, Rahul said both the major parties are thinking about politics in a traditional way and he would learn from the success of the new entrant.
“The AAP has involved a lot of people who the traditional parties did not involve. We have learnt from that. We'll do what the AAP did in ways you can't even imagine,” he said.