Today's Paper

Congress mulls over reasons for Gujarat defeat

Gargi Parsai

Sets agenda to strengthen party

NEW DELHI: Stunned by its defeat in the Gujarat Assembly elections, the Congress on Monday held an “introspection meeting” at Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence. General Secretary in charge of Gujarat B.K. Hari Prasad and State PCC president Bharatsinh Solanki owned responsibility for the defeat at the meeting chaired by Ms. Gandhi.

The party debated if it was the Modi-centric campaign that did not go down well with the local people.

Initially the party took on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on his development agenda till he played the “communal card” after the ‘maut ke saudagar’ comment of Ms. Gandhi. This was perhaps not countered well by the party.

Also, the party maintained that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was “misquoted” by the media on his observation that the Congress would reopen the Godhra riot cases, which also did not go down well.

The post-mortem revealed that these two observations gave Mr. Modi the handle to play the “communal card” as well as to equate himself with Ms. Gandhi and Dr. Manmohan Singh to catapult himself on the national stage.

The Congress has now set itself the agenda to strengthen the organisation in Gujarat and other States, “work through the five years out of power” and “sustain its fight against communal politics.” In Gujarat the party did not have a PCC president for two years on account of which the party suffered on the ground.

Saurashtra debacle

A preliminary report that was discussed showed surprise at the debacle in the Saurashtra region and north Gujarat where the party was expecting to do well.

In Saurashtra, the party had accommodated eight BJP rebels out of which only one won. In north Gujarat, the party was plagued by infighting.

There were at least 11 Congress rebels in the fray in north Gujarat which led to the party’s poor showing in the region. The party was hoping to win at least 13 seats here, but got only seven.

Emerging from the two hour-long meeting, Mr. Hari Prasad said the party discussed why it fared badly in Saurashtra and north Gujarat. “We presented an initial report to the Congress president. After getting a more detailed report we’ll make our assessment on the reasons for the defeat. The PCC chief and CLP leader would prepare a detailed assessment soon, after discussions with the DCC chiefs.”

Mr. Prasad said Ms. Gandhi heard out the various view-points expressed at the meeting. “As general secretary and PCC president (he and Mr. Solanki), we owned responsibility,” he said. “We have accepted the defeat. I have congratulated the Chief Minister of Gujarat.”

A senior Congress leader said it was debated whether the party “overestimated” the influence of the Keshubhai-led BJP rebels who had been claiming for over a month prior to the elections that Mr. Modi would lose in Saurashtra and that the Patel community would not back him. “They had a role to play in our defeat.”

The meeting was attended by senior party leaders, including Pranab Mukherjee, Arjun Singh, A.K. Antony, Digvijay Singh, Prithviraj Chavan, Shankersinh Vaghela, Dinsha Patel, Ahmed Patel, general secretary Mukul Wasnik and Mr. Hari Prasad.

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