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Home > News > PTI

Congress takes stock of Gujarat debacle

December 25, 2007 17:57 IST

Heads are unlikely to roll in Congress, at least for now, in the wake of the stunning defeat in Gujarat with Congress president Sonia Gandhi [Images] suggesting that there should not be any blame game as all are equally responsible.

Gandhi said this during a meeting on Monday with senior party leaders to introspect over the poll debacle that has shocked the organisation and led to pointing fingers as to who was to blame, party sources said.

All India Congress Committee General Secretary B K Hariprasad has also echoed similar view saying everybody is responsible for the defeat.

Hariprasad said that resignations do not solve the problems. "You should take the resignations if anyone has faulted somewhere," he said adding that action could be taken only when there has been purposeful and intentional work against the party.

Party sources said the post-mortem of its dismal showing at the meeting chaired by Gandhi saw senior leader Pranab Mukherjee emphasising the need to draw up a new strategy to counter the saffron forces which have been holding sway over the Western state for more than a decade.

At the same time, Mukherjee insisted that the Congress 'cannot think like a regional party'.

Another senior leader A K Antony told the meeting that the Congress faced an uphill challenge in the state from day one as the BJP had communalised the atmosphere for years. "It is not easy to win Gujarat," he had told the leadership even before the start of the campaign, the sources said.

A party general secretary said that the Congress 'blinked' following the row over Gandhi's 'merchants of death' remarks and its campaign became confused.

The leader felt that the 'master campaigner' in Modi exploited the situation to the hilt to derail the Congress campaign based on the development plank and the party failed to recover.

Another senior leader expressed regret to Gandhi, who had addressed as many as 14 meetings during the last several months in the state, for letting her down in the crucially important state.

A state leader said that rebellion in north Gujarat hurt the party badly while the BJP rebels taken on board by the Congress failed to rise to the occasion in Saurashtra, which was a big disappointment.

As many as 11 rebels were in the fray in North Gujarat and their presence affected the party, he said.

The role of Union Minister Shankersinh Vaghela and his followers has also come in for criticism from a section of the leaders.

Incidentally, Vaghela had said that the excessive reaction of the BJP to Gandhi's remarks affected the Congress prospects.

What was needed, a senior leader said, was the removal of factionalism in the state unit as the election saw "everyone thinking in terms of strengthening his group which ultimately affected the party".

According to another office bearer, the powerful Patel community stood by the BJP in Saurashtra, the home turf of sulking leader Keshubhai Patel as the former Chief Minister did not leave the saffron party.

A central leader said that the battle in Gujarat was a tricky affair as the partymen in the state have become "prisoners of the circumstances there". Gujarat is the BJP's Hindutva laboratory where aggressive Hindutva appears to have changed the political discourse for several years.

He said any Central leader going to Gujarat was told the does and donts by the local partymen which included not to attack Modi and not to raise the issue of Sachar Committee report on Muslims.

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