Today's Paper

We have to pull our socks up, says Sonia

NEW DELHI DEC. 4. The Congress today sought to give the `anti-incumbency' factor a major role in the drubbing it received at the hustings in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Such was the disappointment over the results that the party found little consolation in the Delhi verdict.

The party president, Sonia Gandhi, was candid in admitting that the Congress was hoping to win more States than just Delhi.

"I will be very frank. We are looking at the results with some disappointment though we are happy with Delhi. We were hoping to win in more States. Obviously the people were expecting more from us and we could not perform up to their expectations," she told presspersons at the Navy Day celebrations here.

On the anti-incumbency factor, Ms. Gandhi said it did play a role in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where "we served two terms. But we are more disappointed with Rajasthan because we had done a great deal of work. But there were five years of terrible drought and the people were not satisfied."

After her initial analysis, Ms. Gandhi said: "We have to pull our socks up and do more."

Barring the official reaction and the party chief's comment, the Congress headquarters wore a deserted look. An eerie silence greeted visitors even as television channels stood on stand-by outside 24, Akbar Road to get hold of senior leaders for their reactions. Ms. Gandhi met several party leaders, including the outgoing Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh. The party is expected to hold a formal introspection meeting in the next few days.

The party's spokesperson, S. Jaipal Reddy, said that the verdict in the three States was a "product of the anti-incumbency factor" and dipped into history to state that the change of power was "cyclical." He said that since 1967, these States had been "sharply bi-polar" between the Bharatiya Jana Sangh/Bharatiya Janata Party, on the one hand, and the Congress, on the other. "These two forces have occupied the entire political space and there is a certain cyclical pattern to electoral results in the historical sense," Mr. Reddy said.

The Congress preferred to credit the Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, and the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with the party's good showing in Delhi. Mr. Reddy said that while the work done by Ms. Dikshit's Government won the vote, the anti-incumbency factor was also at play.

He said this was so since on the issues of law and order and land, it was the Centre which had the control, and the people had voted against the Central Government.

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