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A day after the party was trounced in Assembly elections in four heartland states, the knives were out in the Congress Monday as outgoing Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit claimed the state unit of the party was not fully with her while Chhattisgarh unit chief Charan Das Mahant blamed internal sabotage for the defeat of 10 senior leaders there.
The turbulence in the party came as Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar attacked the Congress leadership saying people want a “strong and decisive” leader like Indira Gandhi and not “weak leaders”.
It also coincided with the Congress leadership going into a huddle to find out what went wrong — and perhaps fix accountability — for the party to slump to such a morale-sapping defeat months before the Lok Sabha elections.
“We didn’t get enough support from the party,” Dikshit told reporters. “There’s no denying the fact that there were problems in coordination” between her and the party but such problems, she said, were inevitable.
But she maintained that anti-incumbency wasn’t a factor, that the work her government had done in the last 15 years was something she was extremely proud of.
Senior Delhi Congress leaders, however, disagreed with Dikshit’s claim.
“The DPCC wasn’t utilised enough by her. If we had been involved more, then things would have been different,” said one leader, admitting there were problems in “coordination”.
The allegation by Chhattisgarh’s Mahant was more damaging.
“Twenty-seven of our sitting MLAs, including the CLP leader and the deputy CLP leader lost. Nobody imagined such a result,” Mahant told The Indian Express.
“Ten senior leaders such as CLP leader Ravindra Choubey, deputy leader of opposition Rampurkar Singh and several-time MLAs such as Bodhraram Kanwar, Mohammed Akbar, Shiv Kumar Dahariya and Rajkamal Singhaniya lost. Rebels were propped up against them and they were financed. We have received complaints and I had informed Rahulji even before the elections. I suspect there was internal sabotage to defeat them,” Mahant said.
Although he did not take names, sources in the Congress interpreted it as being aimed at senior leader and former chief minister Ajit Jogi. Talking to The Indian Express, Jogi, however, dismissed the sabotage angle and argued everyone worked very hard.
While the Congress was set to dissect the results, its key ally Sharad Pawar said the outcome of the polls had lessons for the allies of the ruling party as well.
“The youth played a big role in this polls that led to Congress’s defeat. They used the ballot to vent out their anger. People need strong, decisive and result oriented leaders. They do not want weak rulers, but they want those who will formulate policies and programmes for poor and implement them with firmness,” Pawar wrote on his blog.
NCP sources later said Pawar was not seeking to attack the Congress leadership but was only drawing attention to the need for “deep introspection” given that the middle-classes had abandoned the Congress in Delhi and such trends could affect its allies also.
He also said weak leadership of the Congress had led to the rise of pseudo-activists who had no connect with ground reality.
“It is observed that not only media but also people in government get influenced by these people. They come up with unrealistic ideas and impression gets created that they are representing people’s feelings which is not true,” said the NCP chief, apparently referring to the National Advisory Council which was instrumental in the enactment of the Food Security Bill despite Pawar’s reservations about its impact on farmers.
“Whenever there was a strong and decisive leadership, such forces never came to the fore. Take example of our late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. She was strong and decisive.
“During her time, such elements that has no connect with the ground reality never surfaced. Unlike today, that whole class of people, who are always willing to give their free advice on every matter, was absent then. Such is the clout of these free advisors, that people from the media as well as the government fall prey to them and start believing that the opinions of these advisors is that of the people. We need to think about this too (sic),” said Pawar.
“Important factor that influenced these elections is new voter in these states. The youth has clearly shown its anger in these elections and we need to find why they are angry. We also need to think about the class of people who are trying to influence and change public opinion through their impractical ideas. If a leader can be confident and decisive about his people oriented policies, then he will not have to contend with such new power centers.
At the Congress’s stock-taking exercise, source said the feedback from observers was that there were organisational weaknesses including infighting and shortcomings in conveying the party’s message across to the masses.
They said the assessment was that price-rise played a role as also the mood against the UPA government and party chief Sonia Gandhi said the need of the hour was to work unitedly.
Party leaders indicated there could be a shake up in the organisation in the coming days.