Punjab 2017

Congress takes heart from victory in Punjab

Consolation prize: Congress cadre at the AICC Headquarters in New Delhi celebrate their party’s victory in the Punjab Assembly election on Saturday.  

For the Congress, the complete and ignominious rout of the alliance it forged with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh has been compensated by its sterling performance in Punjab and emergence as the number one party in Goa and Manipur. In Congress-ruled Uttarakhand, the party was trounced, with even outgoing Chief Minister Harish Rawat losing the two seats he contested.

 

Wresting power from the BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) government in Punjab after a decade in the opposition has brought some much-needed cheer to the Congress that has been in free fall nationally for a while. But the failure of its experiment in U.P. has once again put a question mark on the leadership of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, especially when it has been stressed that sister Priyanka Gandhi and he drew up the strategy for the State.

 

Instead, the Congress sought to focus public attention on its victory in Punjab where, under the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh, the party won a resounding victory. When Captain Singh, who turned 75 on Saturday, was asked by a TV channel whether he had expected 77 seats in a House of 117, he said, “I thought we would get 66 seats, but [poll strategist] Prashant [Kishore] had told me that if we could burst the bubble, we would get more than 70.”

 

Meanwhile, party managers were working overtime to muster support to form governments in Goa and Manipur, where the Congress has been in power for an unbroken three terms.

Hopes in Goa

In Goa, where party general secretary Digvijaya Singh is monitoring the situation, it is likely that the Congress will be able to form the government. In a 40-member House, it has won 17 seats, its partner, the Goa Forward Party three and the Nationalist Congress Party one, adding up to a thin majority of 21. In Manipur, the Congress that has won 27 seats and is the single largest party in a House of 60 will be staking its claim to form a government, Congress sources said. Sitting CM Ibobi Singh has already secured the support of the one Trinamool MLA and is in talks with the four-member Naga People’s Party.

In U.P., the Congress that had won 28 seats in the 2012 Assembly polls, when it contested on its own, has slipped down to seven. A senior party leader, when asked whether the party was regretting its alliance with the SP, said: “No; the results would have been worse as the Muslim votes instead of being divided between the SP-Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) would have been divided three ways.”

Predictably, senior leaders stepped up to defend Mr. Gandhi. Mr. Digvijaya Singh said there was no question of Mr. Gandhi stepping down, when asked about a possible change in the leadership. “The Nehru-Gandhi family is the greatest binding factor for the Congress and the leadership has to come to Rahul,” he said, while acknowledging the “need to build up new leadership in the States. We have to take decisive action to build up the party where we do not have strong regional leaders.”

Congratulatory tweets

Mr. Gandhi, himself, remained ensconced in his Tughlak Road residence, sending tweets, congratulating the BJP and PM Narendra Modi for the victories in U.P. and Uttarakhand, congratulating Captain Amarinder Singh for his victory in Punjab and finally making exhortations to Congress workers: “We stand resolute & committed to our values & our belief in an India united in strength & purpose” and “Our fight continues and will not end till we win the hearts & minds of people.”

The party’s communication chief Randeep Surjewala said: “These election results are also a lesson to those who never tired of speaking about ‘Congress Mukt Bharat.’”

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 9:54:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/punjab-2017/congress-takes-heart-from-victory-in-punjab/article17449210.ece

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