Rahul promises drastic changes in keeping with people’s expectations

The verdict in the Assembly elections called for “deep introspection,” Congress president Sonia Gandhi said on Sunday, stressing she was “disappointed with the results” even as she accepted the people’s verdict “with all humility.”

Addressing journalists at the AICC headquarters here shortly after the results came in, Ms Gandhi responded to a question on the party’s prime ministerial candidate by saying the Congress would take a decision at an “opportune moment.” Asked whether party vice-president Rahul Gandhi would be the party’s prime ministerial candidate, she said: “We have not made any statement in this regard yet.”

Acknowledging that one of the prime reasons for the party’s defeat was price rise, she expressed surprise that the electorate had not responded positively to the development undertaken by the Congress governments in Rajasthan and Delhi. “We will introspect and take action to rectify our mistakes… Also we need to see if our party was equipped or not so well equipped to deal with the changing dynamics,” she said, admitting that the people were “unhappy, otherwise they would not have given this result.”

Asked whether the results in 2014 would be similar, she said issues in national elections were quite different from those in Assembly polls. “The focus in State elections is on the personality of State leaders and local issues, while in general elections it is all about national issues and leadership.”

For his part, Mr. Gandhi, a star campaigner for the Congress during the Assembly elections, said: “I and my party have listened with our minds and hearts the message that people have given through these elections.” Promising to introduce drastic changes in keeping with the expectations of the masses, he said: “The Congress party has the ability to transform itself, to stand up for the people, and we will do that… we work for the people of this country and will do whatever it takes to live up to their expectations.”

Mr. Gandhi said he would make all efforts to transform the Congress to make it “the organisation people would be proud of.” He lamented, in particular, the loss of the Sheila Dikshit government in Delhi. “I believe she gave good governance. But instead of just talk about our governance we need to move ahead to a paradigm where we give serious thought to the common man.”

On the growth of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, he said both the major political parties — the Congress and the BJP — have so far been thinking about politics in a traditional way: “We need to think about giving power to the people and we are now going to make the necessary changes.” The AAP had empowered common people far more than the traditional parties, Mr. Gandhi acknowledged, adding that the Congress, too, having taken a lesson from the Delhi results, would “involve people in a big way now.”

On whether the Assembly poll results were a reflection on Narendra Modi’s growing popularity, he said: “Mr. Modi is a leader of the BJP. The Congress has a vision and perspective of this country, while the BJP has its own perspective. My focus is on what I can help this country with and how we can use the power of the youth of this country. What we are going to do is what we would be focusing on.”

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