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Sonia not responsible for debacle: Motilal Vora

A K Diwanji in New Delhi | December 05, 2003 03:00 IST

Perhaps they had not been told that even if the battle was won, the war was lost. Congress party workers and activists of the Delhi unit were vigorously celebrating the party's victory.

Drums were being beaten, leaders were being hailed, and cheers were shouted out in gusto, deafening everyone else around. The celebrations would have been appropriate at the headquarters of the Congress party's Delhi unit; but at the All-India Congress Committee office on Akbar Road, it appeared terribly out of sync.

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Perhaps, someone told the cheerleaders that they were at the wrong place and at the wrong time. And that despite winning Delhi, the party had been drubbed in Madhya Pradesh, outflanked in Rajasthan and outmanoeuvred in Chhattisgarh.

Soon the noisy group moved away in their hired trucks and calm descended over the party headquarters, matching the gloom that seemed apparent all around.

The police had been deployed in strength outside the AICC headquarters to keep a watch over the celebrations that often get raucous. In the event, they had little to do once the members and supporters of the Delhi unit disappeared and busied themselves watching reporters give live updates on television.

Top leaders of the party were conspicuous by there absence even as party workers milled around. Many of them were busy appearing on various television channels bravely trying to explain the defeats, especially in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where till a week before polling the Congress seemed to be enjoying a lead over the BJP.

Yet, all the other party leaders who were not on television and who should have been present at the party headquarters chose to stay away. Only Motilal Vora, a senior party leader, was around but he too disappeared after a television channel requested him to appear in its studio.

But before leaving he spoke to rediff.com. The party would hold a meeting to decide what went wrong, and more important, what the party must do next.

Asked if there was any specific reason for the defeat, he blamed the anti-incumbency factor. The Congress had done a lot of development work but the same had not been conveyed to the people, he said.

"In Madhya Pradesh, power cuts began to occur after Chhattisgarh was created. But people were unwilling to forgive the cuts even after power supply was restored," he said. He, however, admitted that since Chhattisgarh had been formed three years ago, the MP government should have made alternative arrangements rather than let its people suffer.

In Rajasthan, Vora said three years of drought had left its impact. He refused to comment on Chhattisgarh.

He sprung to the defence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi when it was pointed out that her series of public meetings, especially in Rajasthan, had obviously had no impact at all. Vora insisted that she could not be held accountable for the defeat of the state governments. "The responsibility lies with the state leaders," he said.

A Congress source said that given the magnitude of the defeat, one could expect dramatic changes. Some people would have to be held accountable and will have to go. Keeping the next Lok Sabha elections in mind, the party would try to bring in fresh faces to avoid the anti-incumbency factor.

The first person likely to face the axe is outgoing Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi, who is facing a slew of corruption cases and was unable to capitalise on the bribery allegations against BJP's chief ministerial aspirant Dilip Singh Judeo.

Outgoing Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot too will have some explaining to do, especially since he had chosen most of the Congress candidates, often to the detriment of other leaders in the state.

Outgoing Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh has already announced that he will not accept any major political position for the next 10 years.

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