Sonia Gandhi Gandhi asked the CWC to “take note of our serious setbacks” and said that “to say that we are deeply disappointed is to make an understatement.”(HT Photo)
Sonia Gandhi Gandhi asked the CWC to “take note of our serious setbacks” and said that “to say that we are deeply disappointed is to make an understatement.”(HT Photo)

Factionalism, poor local leadership behind poll losses: Leaders at CWC meet

The party again deferred its internal election to find a successor of president Sonia Gandhi “in view of the nationwide emergent conditions prevailing on account of unprecedented Corona pandemic.”
By Saubhadra Chatterji, Sunetra Choudhury, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2021 09:14 AM IST

Congress leaders on Monday blamed factionalism and poor local leadership and cited hurdles in campaigning and paucity of time for preparations as they analysed the party’s performance in the recent assembly polls in the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Monday after party chief Sonia Gandhi asked them to take note of “our serious setback” and told them if they don’t “face up to the reality”, they will “not draw the right lessons.”

The party again deferred its internal election to find a successor of president Sonia Gandhi “in view of the nationwide emergent conditions prevailing on account of unprecedented Corona pandemic” and several leaders maintained that organization has to be devoted to Covid-19 relief works. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who is recuperating from Covid-19, didn’t attend the CWC meeting on Monday.

In her opening remarks, Gandhi asked the CWC to “take note of our serious setbacks” and said that “to say that we are deeply disappointed is to make an understatement”. She proposed the creation of a committee to analsze the results in Kerala, Assam, Puducherry and West Bengal and added, “but if we do not face up to the reality, if we do not look the facts in the face, we will not draw the right lessons.

According to people present at the meeting, at one point, Gandhi quipped that under her stewardship the party has lost elections in 4 states after senior leader Salman Khurshid urged her to continue through the pandemic because the Congress has achieved much under her leadership.

Also read | Sonia to remain Congress chief as party defers polls amid pandemic

After the chief ministers of states ruled by the Congress who were present at the meeting described the Covid situation in their respective states, it was the turn of the general secretaries to give their assessment of the party’s performance in the recent assembly elections, added the people cited above, who summarised the points made by each. The Congress lost badly in Assam, went against a four-decade trend by losing in Kerala, performed badly in Puducherry, and didn’t win a single seat in the 294-member West Bengal assembly. It was, however, the junior partner in the victorious DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu.

In his report, Jitendra Singh, in charge of Assam, said the Congress lost the state as it didn’t have sufficient time to prepare and to optimise its alliances with AIUDF and the Bodoland people’s Front. He also said that in upper Assam, the Congress did badly as the BJP backed two local parties to cut away the Congress votes. Singh also pointed out that the difference in vote share between the BJP and the Congress was very narrow, but senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh pointed out that the Congress would have actually done better if it had not partnered with Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF.

Jitin Prasada , in charge of West Bengal, argued that the Congress could not do well in the last two phases of the West Bengal polls, in areas which were its strognhold as Covid impacted the party campaign. He also admitted that Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress managed to build up momentum in the first six phases that affected the Congress’ fortunes in the last two phases of polling.

Dinesh Gundu Rao, in charge of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, congratulated Rahul Gandhi for aligning with the DMK in Tamil Nadu but squarely blamed former Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy for the debacle in the state. He pointed out that Narayanasamy refused to fight elections and many of his loyalists shifted to the BJP or the rival NR Congress.

General secretary Tariq Anwar blamed infighting that weakened Congress organisation for the Kerala debacle. Rahul Gandhi campaigned extensively in the state, where the Congres-led UDF and the Left’s LDF have alternated in power since 1977.

“The leadership continues to bury its head in the sand and refuses to confront its own failure to lead and direct the party,” Neera Chandioke, political scientist, said.

Interestingly, there wasn’t much of an exchange over the poll results and almost all members stressed the importance of being united in this challenging time.

Later, briefing the media, Congress general secretary KC Venugopal and party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said a group will be formed in 48 hours to look into the election results and promised to fix accountability. Surjewala claimed that “the Congress has lost the polls, but it has not lost its hope.”

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