Congress leaders on Tuesday threw a protective shield around party Vice President Rahul Gandhi against the predicted rout in the elections and went on to say that he will remain their leader for the future.
Reacting to exit poll predictions of Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government in the making, they sought to suggest that Rahul was never part of the United Progressive Alliance government and the Manmohan Singh-led government was not able to convey to the people about its programmes and the work done.
Special Coverage: Election 2014
The Congress leaders who came out to bat for Rahul included Jairam Ramesh, Kamal Nath and Salman Khurshid.
"All this discussion is absurd. Rahul Gandhi is our leader and he will remain our leader in good and bad times," said Khurshid, the minister for external affairs.
Rubbishing the exit poll predictions, which gave the Congress very poor numbers, he said, "Be that as it may, he (Rahul) is our leader. We repose faith in him. He will lead us from the front, he will tell us if something has to be told and something has to be advised."
Rural development minister Ramesh described Rahul as a "indefatigable" campaigner who toured all over the country and said, "Ultimately it is for the organisation to translate whatever positive impact Mr Gandhi or Mrs Gandhi's campaign has into electoral advantage."
Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath also rejected suggestions that a likely poor show in the elections will be a reflection on Rahul's leadership, saying he was never a part of the UPA government.
He said the Manmohan Singh-led government was not able to convey to the people about its programmes and all the good work it was doing. "Election results are a reflection on what people's perception of the government functioning was....To dismiss them (good work) and say we did nothing in 10 years is wrong. Rahul Gandhi was never part of the government," Nath said.
Contending that Congress party "collectively" chose Rahul Gandhi as their leader, Khurshid said, "We are not like the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) that we pick and choose people in order to make sure that we can win an election or not. We take our leadership based on enormous amount of principle."
Hailing Rahul's effort in the electioneering, Ramesh said the poll campaigns for the Congress party exists at four different levels -- at the level of the candidate, district committee, the Pradesh Congress Committee and then the All India Congress Committe.
"Mr Gandhi was an "indefatigable" campaigner...over 125 rallies he must have addressed in every nook and corner of the country. He bought spirit into our campaign. In his campaign where he not just took on Narendra Modi and BJP but he also articulated what the Congress party stood for," Ramesh told reporters during an interaction at Indian Womens Press Corps.
The union minister said that Rahul was the main campaigner although there were a lot of other people who were campaigning in pockets.
"Other than Sonia Gandhi, he was the pan India campaigner. Our campaign was at the multiple levels," he said.
Image: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi