Congress party meets after poll debacle

Highest decision-making body of India's oldest party deliberates on reasons of poll rout at hands of opposition BJP.

    Congress party meets after poll debacle
    Rahul Gandhi is seen to have run a lacklustre campaign that failed to connect with voters [EPA]

    India's Congress party has met in the capital, New Delhi, in the wake of the party's worst-ever performance in the recently concluded parliamentary elections.

    The party, which led a coalition government for the last 10 years, suffered defeat at the hands of the right-wing opposition Bharatiya Janata Party led by Narendra Modi.

    The party's highest decision-making body, Congress Working Committee, which is being chaired by party president Sonia Gandhi, is expected to explore the reasons behind its defeat and chalk out future strategy.

    "Resignations and knee jerk reactions, I do not think are a solution to the problem. There is a need to go into things at great depth so allow the Congress Working Committee to come to certain conclusions and then we would take it from there," said a leader of Congress party, Manish Tewari.

    Both party chief Sonia Gandhi and her son and heir apparent, Rahul, have accepted responsibility for the loss. They said on Friday that the mandate in the Lok Sabha polls was clearly against the Congress and the party had a lot to think about.

    In the election, Modi's BJP won 282 seats in parliament, 10 more than the majority required to rule, and with allied parties had a tally of 336 - the clearest result since the 1984 assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi propelled her son Rajiv to office.

    The Congress party won only 44 seats in the 543-member lower house of parliament – less than the one-tenth required to be recognised as the main opposition group.

    Dynasty remains mainstay

    The dynasty has been the mainstay of the Congress party since Jawaharlal Nehru led India to independence in 1947 and stayed on as prime minister until he died in 1964. Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, and her son, Rajiv, both served as prime ministers and were assassinated, seven years apart.

    Sonia Gandhi is Rajiv's widow and Rahul their son.

    The few Congress party members who have previously raised the banner of revolt against the family have been hounded out. Some others who left the party have quietly returned.

    The Congress rout, worse than opinion polls predicted, has deepened doubts about the leadership of Rahul, who is seen to have run a lacklustre campaign that failed to connect with voters, especially the young, where opposition leader and prime minister-to-be Modi succeeded.

    Both Sonia and her son won their seats in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh; Rahul with a vastly reduced majority.

    Congress leaders sought to shift the blame to Gandhi's advisers. "It was a complete failure of our communication strategy, our media strategy," said Ashwani Kumar, a former federal minister.

    While the party bosses were closing ranks behind Rahul, some Congressmen lower down revived the call for a greater role for his sister Priyanka, seen as a more natural politician.

    A poster appeared in the northern town of Allahabad, with pictures of Sonia and Priyanka, calling for the younger sibling
    to fully embrace Congress politics.

    Priyanka, a year younger than her brother, campaigned in the family's home districts mounting an aggressive challenge to Modi's high-decibel show that took the country by storm.


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