Rahul takes responsibility for Congress debacle

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Bows to people’s verdict; CWC to decide on leadership issue

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday took “100% responsibility” for the crushing defeat of his party in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, but stopped short of offering to resign as the party president.

“We will have a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) and they will decide it there. Let it be between me and the CWC, if possible,” Mr. Gandhi said in response to a question on whether he would step down as the party president.

The Congress chief not only congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his party’s victory but also conceded defeat to BJP’s Smriti Irani from Amethi though when several rounds of counting were still left to be completed.

Humiliating defeat

The loss to Ms. Irani, whom he asked to handle “Amethi with love”, was certainly the lowest point for the Congress chief, who has represented the constituency since he entered politics in 2004. He, however, declined to get into details and talked of “respecting whatever verdict the people ordered”.

“Frankly today, it doesn’t matter what I think went wrong; what matters is that the people of India have decided that Shri Narendra Modi is going to be Prime Minister and as an Indian, I fully respect people’s verdict,”he said.

“One hundred per cent,” he replied when asked if he took responsibility for the debacle.

The principal Opposition party’s tally hovered around 52-53 seats at the time of writing — still short of 55 MPs required to get the post of Leader of the Opposition.

Trends indicated that out of 188 Lok Sabha seats where the Congress was in a direct fight with the BJP, it lost 174. Voters not only rejected Mr. Gandhi’s leadership but the party’s campaign focussing on livelihood issues paled before BJP’s campaign around nationalism and Mr. Modi’s leadership.

But perhaps the bigger story for the Congress was its decimation in the Hindi heartland States of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where the party won the Assembly polls just five months ago.

The party not only lost the most-watched battle in Bhopal between BJP’s Pragya Singh Thakur and Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh but its younger leader, Jyotiraditya Scindia, lost his bastion of Guna. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s son, Nakul, was the only candidate who won with a margin of over 37,000 votes.

There are already speculation about the Kamal Nath government and the JD(S)-Congress government in Karnataka where again the alliance was decimated.

Punjab was an exception in north India for the Congress where it won eight of the 13 seats. Mr. Gandhi’s decision to contest from Kerala saved his blushes as the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) swept the polls in the State.

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