Senior Congress party leader K Karunakaran has launched a veiled attack on party president Sonia Gandhi by terming the debacle the party suffered in the Gujarat assembly election as a result of her "executive style of functioning".
He said the party would not be able to face the challenges ahead if this style was not done away with immediately.
"No Indian can be proud of the poll outcome. The Congress has failed to consolidate the secular votes. The need of the hour is democratic measures to consolidate secular forces against the communal threat," he added.
Karunakaran, who had raked up the foreign origin issue of Sonia Gandhi following a similar defeat the party had suffered in the Goa assembly election early this year, alleged that the party leadership had failed to assess the political situation in Gujarat.
"I had pointed out several lapses in the functioning of the party leadership. None gave any heed to the warnings I gave from time to time," he said. Karunakaran, who is not actively involved in party matters for some time now, has called for serious discussions on the reasons for the party's poor showing not only in Gujarat but also in the by-elections in Rajasthan.
When asked whether the poll outcome would have any impact on the Antony government in Kerala, he said it would affect Kerala as much as it would other states. When pressed for details, he asked the reporters to wait and see.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister A K Antony has come to the rescue of Sonia Gandhi saying that setbacks in polls were part of democracy. "A party that win an election today might lose it tomorrow," he told newsmen after a Cabinet meeting.
Antony, who is also a member of the Congress Working Committee, said there was no justification for attacking the party leadership for the debacle. The Congress president had led the party to the victory in several states, including Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttaranchal.
"She has rejuvenated the party and has held it together. The defeat in Gujarat is not a reflection on her leadership. She has amply proved her leadership qualities," he said.
Antony, however, conceded that the poor show in Gujarat was unexpected. "We expected the party to fare well. We would analyse the factors and take corrective action," he added. The chief minister ruled out any impact of the poll outcome on the political situation in the state or at the national level.
Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member and former chief minister E K Nayanar has held the Congress responsible for the setback secular forces have suffered in Gujarat. The BJP would not have won the election if the Congress had taken the initiative to forge a joint platform of all secular forces, Nayanar added.
He pointed out that the CPI-M and other left parties had suggested unity of all secular parties to defeat the BJP. "I only hope that the Congress would learn a lesson from Gujarat and take the initiative for the unity of all secular parties in the states where elections are due in the coming years," the senior CPI-M leader said.