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Cong faces ally fire over poll debacle
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 9
Post Congress’ poll debacle in four states ahead of the 16th Lok Sabha elections in 2014, questions are being raised about party vice president Rahul Gandhi’s ability to deliver at the hustings considering he conceptualised and led the campaign from the front.

UPA’s own allies today triggered this debate with the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar openly attributing the losses to Congress’ weak leadership which he said called for introspection on the part of Congress allies as well.

A cornered Congress, however, continued to defend Rahul with top leaders from minister Rajeev Shukla to spokesperson Meem Afzal pinning the blame on state issues and state leaders.

“Rahul wasn’t in charge of any particular state. The failure is of the organisation,” MoS Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla said.

That was, however, no consolation for the allies who turned the heat on the Congress today, almost demanding a change in leadership for effective results in the Lok Sabha elections. Aware of the fact that Congress’ faceless leadership was an irritant with the voters, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had said yesterday the party would name the prime ministerial candidate at “the opportune time”.

But the allies are clearly restive for change considering few months are left for the 2014 General Election. “People need strong, decisive and result-oriented leaders. They don’t want weak rulers. They want those who will formulate policies and programmes for poor and implement them with firmness,” said Pawar, who heads the biggest coalition partner of the UPA at the Centre.

The Agriculture Minister added that election results had raised questions that required serious thinking from not only the Congress but the rest of the allies too.

He attacked Congress’ top leadership saying while former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took firm decisions, the same was not the case now. Pawar later tweeted - in clear reference to Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party - that Congress’ weak leadership had led to the rise of pseudo activists who were making false promises to people.

The NCP chief’s “strong leadership” chorus wasn’t restricted to NCP circles today. Both the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which offer critical outside support to the Congress-led coalition, lapped it up.

SP’s Naresh Agarwal invited the Maratha strongman to the Third Front to open the possibility of a non-Congress alternative at the Centre and BSP chief Mayawati sounded terribly dejected with the Congress when she said of election results: “We had not anticipated the anti-Congress wave. Had we any clue we would have adopted a different strategy.”

Neither the Congress nor the BSP, despite their professed pro-Dalit agenda, has won any of the SC seats in Delhi. Clearly Congress’ leadership vacuum is an issue which the party is increasingly finding difficult to address. While Rahul visited around 70 Assembly segments in the four poll-bound states, the Congress won only 14.

Further, Rahul’s ticket distribution formula failed miserably in delivering the desired results with the rival BJP winning 69 per cent of the 630 segments contested in four states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

These involve 70 LS segments. Asked if the Congress would change its leadership (read Rahul) given its debacle, Meem Afzal predictably said: “That is out of question.”

Forced to rethink

* NCP chief Sharad Pawar says the poll results have raised questions that require serious thinking from not only the Congress but the rest of the allies too

* SP’s Naresh Agarwal invites the Maratha strongman to the Third Front for a possible non-Congress alternative at the Centre

* BSP chief Mayawati says they would have adopted a different strategy had they anticipated the anti-Congress wave

Sonia seeks report 

A day after Congress' humiliating poll drubbing, AICC chief Sonia Gandhi on Monday stepped in for damage control by chairing a 3-hour meeting with senior leaders P8





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