Cong rumblings grow, PC seeks bypoll show review
In an interview to Dainik Bhaskar, former Union finance minister Chidambaram said that the Congress fought more seats in Bihar than its organisational strength, and called for a “comprehensive review” of the poll results. He added, however, that he was “more worried” about the by-election results. In by-elections to 59 assembly seats across 11 states, the Congress contested 55 but won only 12.Updated: Nov 19, 2020, 08:10 IST
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said that the party’s performance in the assembly elections in Bihar and bypolls in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka show that there is either “no organisational presence on the ground, or it has weakened considerably”.
In an interview to Dainik Bhaskar, former Union finance minister Chidambaram said that the Congress fought more seats in Bihar than its organisational strength, and called for a “comprehensive review” of the poll results. He added, however, that he was “more worried” about the by-election results. In by-elections to 59 assembly seats across 11 states, the Congress contested 55 but won only 12.
Chidambaram’s comments raising concerns and seeking a review come at a time when differences in the Congress have resurfaced after the election results over similar post-election worries aired by former Union minister Kapil Sibal. As part of the Mahagathbandhan, or Grand Alliance, the Congress contested 70 seats but managed to win just 19, impacting the Opposition’s chances of ousting the ruling coalition from power; it won just nine of the 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh, and failed to open its account in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Manipur.
“I feel the Congress contested more seats than its organisational strength in Bihar. The Congress was given 25 seats where the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) or its allies had been winning for 20 years. It should have refused to contest from these seats, and fielded only 45 candidates,” Chidambaram said.
“I am more worried about by-poll results that show the Congress has no organisational presence on the ground or it has weakened considerably,” Chidambaram added. “...Remember, not long ago we had won [assembly elections] Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.”
Earlier this week, Sibal insisted that the Congress needs efficient and senior leaders to manage elections. “We are yet to hear from the Congress party their views on our recent performance in Bihar and in the by-elections. Maybe they think all is well and that it should be business as usual,” he told The Indian Express.
Sibal was one of the 23 signatories to a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi in August seeking internal elections and organisational overhaul.
Sibal’s latest remarks have triggered a war of words within the party, with Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury the latest senior leader to attack the former Union minister.
“Instead of giving sermons sitting in AC rooms, he (Sibal) should work on the ground. Lecturing others without doing anything won’t help. Only calling for introspection without doing anything on our own is of no use,” Chowdhury said, adding that those unhappy with the party’s functioning are “free to leave instead of embarrassing it”.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said this week that Sibal’s remarks have “hurt the sentiments” of Congress workers and reminded him that the party had been through several crises in the past. Former Union minister Salman Khurshid, too, seemed at odds with Sibal. In a Facebook post, Khurshid said that if the mood of the electorate is resistant to the liberal values the party has espoused and cherished, it should be prepared for a long struggle rather than look for short cuts to get back into power.
Hyderabad-based political analyst C Narasimha Rao said the Congress party has weakened on the ground whenever it has been out of power, and added that the party’s choice of regional leadership is partly to blame for this.
Meanwhile, some members of the group of 23 dissenters who signed the August letter have held meetings over the past few days after the Bihar elections to discuss their next move. One member of this group said on condition of anonymity that the group has moved beyond writing letters and will soon come out with its future strategy.