A meeting of Congress Working Committee is expected to be held soon to look into reasons for the partys debacle in the Lok Sabha elections with party chief Rahul Gandhi expected to give his assessment of what went wrong and the remedial steps that need to be taken.
It is the second successive debacle for the Congress in Lok Sabha elections and Gandhi had been a prominent face in both the elections. Gandhi lost from the family’s pocket borough of Amethi in a shocking defeat that will have implications for the party’s revival plans in Uttar Pradesh and his own political standing as a leader. He won from Kerala’s Wayanad.
Sources said that the CWC, the party’s highest decision making body, is expected to meet on May 25.
There was speculation that Gandhi had offered to resign following the results but the party denied it.
Asked at a press conference if he would resign, Gandhi said: “We will have a meeting of the Working Committee. That you can leave between me and the Working Committee.”
Ahead of the CWC meeting, the party has to decide on its course of action including whether Gandhi should step down.
Even as Gandhi has taken responsibility for the defeat, party leaders have said that no individual can be blamed for the outcome.
The party finished at its second lowest tally in its history and is only marginally better than the 44 seats in 2014.
The results show that Gandhi, who became party chief in 2017, has not been able to galvanise the party enough to make it a fighting unit against the BJP which has been turned into an election winning machine by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah.
Congress suffered in most states and failed to dent the BJP in the Hindi heartland states. The party’s poor electoral strategy has allowed BJP to become a dominant force in West Bengal and strengthen itself in Karnataka where it was relatively weak.
Gandhi indicated that the road for the party is long and tough and asked party workers and leaders not to lose heart.
“It is a battle of ideology. There are two ways of thought, one is of Narendra Modi and BJP and the other of Congress. But we have to accept that in this election, we have to accept that Modi ji and BJP have won,” Gandhi said in a brief press meet on Thursday evening.
He did not go into reasons for the party’s debacle.
“Today is the day of the mandate and I don’t want to colour the decision of the people of India by getting into a long conversation with you about what I think went wrong. Today it doesn’t matter what I think went wrong. People of India have decided that Narendra Modi is going to be Prime Minister and as an Indian, I fully respect people’s verdict,” he said.
Gandhi did not elaborate how Congress, which had focused on issues like unemployment and problems of farmers, will strategise its battles ahead.
“This is the battle of ideology. I want to tell Congress workers, the leaders who have lost and won, that do not be afraid. We will together fight and ensure victory of our ideology. You do not have to lose faith at all. We know that there are a lot of people in the country who subscribe to Congress ideology, who have faith in Congress and we want to tell them, do not feel scared,” he said.
Gandhi said it was a long campaign. “I insisted that whatever language is used against me, I will answer that with love. I want to say whatever happens, I will speak with love. This is my philosophy. Love never gets defeated”.
Gandhi was the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections, but he had said that a decision on the leadership will be taken after the elections in consultation with opposition parties.
The issues raised by the party included the Rafale fighter jet deal, its promise of a loan waiver and its pitch for providing Rs 72,000 crore to the poorest 20 per cent families in the country.