A day after the party's disastrous showing in the Assembly elections, Congress president Sonia Gandhi sent out several messages to the faithful, when she made a consciously staged public appearance before the press: she was still in charge, she wanted the import of the electoral verdict to be taken seriously and party members to take their responsibilities seriously.
But she also sent out a message to party leaders, taking a swipe at those who had guided the campaign in Uttar Pradesh. She laughed and said, while answering a question on the lack of leadership, “I will say rather than the lack of leadership... actually we have too many leaders. Perhaps that's our problem.”
The next challenge — the Assembly elections in the BJP-ruled States — would have to be faced squarely, she stressed. “We have Gujarat, then we have Himachal... Karnataka yes... we have to pull our socks up and get going.”
But all was not lost, and the results would not have any impact on the stability of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition.
To a question on UPA allies, she said: “We have seen in the past that the opposition has been in some cases a little... well unhelpful. My view [and] .. that of the Prime Minister and government is that if we continuously and regularly stay in touch and talk to our coalition partners and opposition, [then] on issues which are beneficial to the people of the country, I have every hope, they will understand and support [us].”
After an interregnum of several months — in which she had taken a back seat, thanks largely to ill-health — Ms. Gandhi stepped out into the public domain. Interestingly, it was immediately after a series of one-on-one meetings she had on Wednesday morning with general secretaries in charge of the States that had gone to the polls at her rarely used office at the party headquarters, not behind the heavily guarded high walls of 10 Janpath.
General secretary in charge of U.P. Digvijay Singh met her on Tuesday: he is believed to have offered his resignation, which was not accepted. On Wednesday, she said all those in charge of the States had worked very hard.
Ms. Gandhi's interaction with the media was of a piece with son and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi accepting publicly the responsibility for the verdict in U.P. on Tuesday — sending out a signal that while they meant to analyse the results, and find out what or who went wrong, they were also willing to accept responsibility for failure.