Stay connected with people to serve them, he tells MLAs
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi told elected MLAs and MPs that the entire blame for the party's poor performance in the recent Uttar Pradesh assembly elections could not be laid at the doors of those Ministers whose controversial public statements were said to have adversely affected the chances of those in the electoral fray. They may have contributed, he said, to the results but not entirely. Party sources said that he said that he had hoped the Congress would get more than 20 per cent of the votes that would have translated into 125 seats – instead it got about 11 per cent and 28 seats. The Ministers' statements, he stressed, could not have led to a loss of 10 per cent votes — and therefore, it was important, to look elsewhere.
The three Union Ministers in question — Salman Khurshid, Sriprakash Jaiswal and Beni Prasad Verma — were all present at the meeting. While Mr. Khurshid spoke without referring to the reservation issue that he had highlighted during the polls, Mr. Jaiswal defended his statements on the possible imposition of President's Rule, even saying that the Congress had done better in the phases that followed his controversial remarks. Mr. Verma chose to remain silent. The subject came up as the Ministers came in from a great deal of criticism over the two days that Mr. Gandhi is conducting a stocktaking exercise.
On Friday, Mr. Gandhi who held two sessions — the first with the just elected MLAs and the second with the MPs — focussed on what could be done in the future rather than on recriminations. Indeed, on the second day of the review of the party's performance in the U.P. polls, and ahead of a thorough revamp of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC), Mr. Gandhi suggested that the State should be divided into four zones for better management and control, in the way the Youth Congress has already done in the State.
Currently, the Congress has 115 district and city committees across 75 districts of the State, which include 73 district committees and 42 city-level committees in big districts. But in as vast a State as U.P, state presidents have traditionally found it difficult to monitor all the units and grassroots level functionaries from Lucknow. Now the party is considering whether there should be one State president and four zonal coordinators under him or her or one State co-ordinator and four State presidents. One view is that there is need for one prominent face across the State, while the other feels that one State president will replicate the current situation.
In the first session with the MLAs, Mr. Gandhi said that they should not expect “kid gloves treatment from now on.” Those who have “stayed connected,” he said, “have sailed through. Do not forget the name of your grassroots workers after you win. Stay connected with people, not with a purpose of winning elections but to serve them.” Unity of purpose and action in the State legislature will help them forcefully put forward their views, he added.