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Cong divided over leadership change after poll rout

By Sudipto Chowdhury
March 12, 2022 21:15 IST
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The Congress feels organisational weaknesses in many states, inability to overcome anti-incumbency in Punjab and 'sabotage' by rival Trinamool in Goa, led to its debacle in the recently concluded assembly polls in five states.

IMAGE: Visuals from a Congress rally in Uttar Pradesh. Photograph: ANI Photo

Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury while making these points however, spoke out against any need for change in the top leadership of the party, stating that both Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have been 'trying wholeheartedly'.

Congress leader and noted legal luminary Abhishek Manu Singhvi called for 'reconfiguration' throughout the party to achieve results in future elections, emphasising on organisational elections scheduled for later this year, though he too did not call for any change in the top leadership.


Chowdhury in a telephonic interview to PTI said, "There is an organisational weakness in our party and that is the reason we have lost. The defeat in Punjab was because of our faults. We failed to overcome the anti-incumbency against us in Punjab."

The leader who saw his iron grip over North Bengal politics slipping in elections first to the West Bengal assembly last year and later more recently in municipal elections where TMC won even in his home town, however blamed the Mamata Banerjee-led party for Congress' debacle in Goa.

"We could have won the elections in Goa. We have lost only because of the sabotage by the Trinamool Congress there. They (TMC) have worked as BJP's agents and followed their (Bharatiya Janata Party's) instructions (in dividing votes) and that is the reason we have been defeated in Goa," he claimed.

"The BJP has done really well in the elections. There is doubt in that," Chowdhury admitted.

The Congress Working Committee is expected to meet on Sunday to discuss the poll-washout faced by the party and to strategise a way out of its current problems.

Talking about the loss in Punjab, he said, "We failed to overcome the anti-incumbency against us in Punjab. We had removed Captain Amarinder Singh because of that, but the people of Punjab have rejected us and the SAD and decided to give a chance to Arvind Kejriwal."

"It is also partly because Punjab has a connection with Delhi. The good work done by AAP in New Delhi in sectors like health, power and education had a resonance in Punjab too," he said.

Chowdhury, however, rubbished any need for any change in the Congress' leadership, and said, "Who will be the next leader? If change in leadership is meant to remove Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka Gandhi then one has to ask who will replace them? Both Rahul and Priyanka have been trying whole-heartedly, there is no doubt about their effort."

Singhvi described Congress' losses in the elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur as 'very, very disappointing' and said, "There was a certain amount of static from within our party. I accepted the slide in Punjab but the real shockers were Goa and Uttarakhand."

The noted lawyer and parliamentarian said, "It always comes back to leadership. They have never hesitated to face the bullet, nor have they ever escaped. They are ready to own up to everything. We do need reconfiguration from the bottom of the party."

The senior Congress leader pointed out that elections for the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) presidents and other officeholders, scheduled in June and August 2022, 'should happen' to settle the 'leadership issue'.

"I am confident of finishing the (intra-party) elections in August. If someone out of the existing leadership or related thereto is re-elected by a clear majority then on what democratic basis will you negate them. So this intra-party election is needed. We must have this election and thereafter that top-level thing has to settle down irrespective of who is there on the top," Singhvi said.

Chowdhury said the current motto of the party 'should be to strengthen the organisation before framing its policy for the future'.

Asked whether Congress would require a poll strategist like Prashant Kishor to 'turn around', the Congress leader from Mushidabad, said, "A party cannot turn around depending on a poll strategist. I do not believe in that. There is an organisational weakness of our party and that is the reason we have lost. We have to strengthen our organisation and then think about a poll strategist."

In Uttar Pradesh which the Bharatiya Janata Party won decisively, the Congress finished a distant fourth despite Priyanka Gandhi's extensive campaign.

In Punjab, the Congress lost to the AAP after ruling the state for the last five years, while it lost to the BJP in Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.

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Sudipto Chowdhury
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