Sonia Gandhi trying to set the house in order.

Sonia Gandhi trying to set the house in order.

Congress in turmoil over Delhi drubbing; knives out as blame-game begins

Final wake-up call: Moily; 'has Congress outsourced taking BJP down to others'

Agency Report | New Delhi | 12 February, 2020 | 11:40 PM

The war of words within the Congress intensifies a day after the party registered the lowest-ever percentage of vote share in Delhi elections, and the party warning its Delhi leaders that "blame game is not appreciated in the party." The Congress is busy finding the reason for the debacle as two prominent leaders owned up the defeat and tendered their resignation. Congress leader and former Karnataka chief minister Veerappa Moily says "Delhi results are final wake up call for the party".

Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday accepted the resignations of Delhi Congress in-charge P.C. Chacko and state president Subhash Chopra.

Following the debacle in the Delhi Assembly elections, Chacko tendered his resignation on Monday while Chopra submitted it on Tuesday.

As of now, Shakti Singh Gohil has been appointed as the interim in-charge of Delhi, who will also continue to look after Bihar till the final replacement is made.

A notification issued by K.C. Venugopal, General Secretary (in-charge organisation) said: “Congress interim president has accepted the resignation of P.C. Chacko and Subhash Chopra. Shakti Singh Gohil has been appointed as interim in-charge.”

The party’s internal rift came out in the open after the Congress lost the recently held Delhi Assembly elections. The party reprimanded the Delhi leaders earlier on Wednesday.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the leaders should introspect on their roles in the party campaign for the elections before blaming each other.

The party, which got 22 per cent votes in the Lok Sabha polls held last year, ended up with less than a 5 per cent vote share in the Delhi Assembly elections.

Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee lashed out at her senior party colleague P. Chidambaram for gloating over Aam Aadmi Party’s victory.

Mukherjee, who is the daughter of once veteran Congress leader and former President Pranab Mukherjee, said: “With due respect sir, just want to know — has Congress outsourced the task of defeating BJP to state parties?

“If not, then why are we gloating over AAP victory rather than being concerned about our drubbing? And if ‘yes’, then we (PCCs) might as well close shop.”

Her remarks in reply to the former Finance Minister’s taunt at the BJP for its defeat saying AAP won and the “bluff and bluster” lost.

In a tweet, Chidambaram said, “AAP won, bluff and bluster lost. The people of Delhi, who are from all parts of India, have defeated the polarising, divisive and dangerous agenda of the BJP.

“I salute the people of Delhi who have set an example to other states that will hold their elections in 2021 and 2022,” he said.

This is the first strong message from a Congress leader indicating that all is not well within the grand old party.

On Tuesday, Mukherjee, who had contested unsuccessfully from Greater Kailash Assembly seat in the 2015 polls, also said “enough of interopsection” and “time for action now”.

She blamed the lack of strategy and unity, delay in decision-making at the top level and at the state level for the continuous party debacle.

“We are again decimated in Delhi. Enough of introspection, time for action now. Inordinate delay in decision making at the top, lack of strategy and unity at state level, demotivated workers, no grassroots connect-all are factors. Being part of the system, I too take my share of responsibility,” Mukherjee said in a tweet.

This was Congress’ third dismal performance in the national capital. The party despite ruling the city for 15 years from 1998 to 2013, was reduced to eight seats in the 2013 assembly polls. The party scored a nil in the 2015 assembly polls.

Following the drubbing in the assembly polls, Congress Delhi unit chief Subhash Chopra resigned as expected even as knives were out for the resignation of the party’s Delhi affairs in-charge P.C. Chacko, who has been blamed for the dismal electoral show.

Though Chopra did not get sufficient time to gear up for the Delhi electoral battle, it’s a tradition with the party that the state unit owns up to the defeat.

The Congress has been a divided house in Delhi ever since 2010 when a section of the party tried to dislodge Sheila Dikshit.

The bitterness between the two factions still persists as leaders from her camp blame the other for the rout of the party in these elections.

The AAP swept the Delhi Assembly elections on Tuesday as it bagged 62 of 70 seats, while the BJP got eight.

Speaking on phone from Bengaluru, Moily said, “Congress has always the capacity to bounce back and it will bounce back, time will change and party will form government in 2024.”

“We have to build the party for future and on the agenda which could focus in the future and its necessary that youth should be involved in the process. Lots of dynamism need to be injected in the party,” said Moily, adding that every Congressman should work for the party.

Our difficulty is that we always pursue power and not build organisation. The former chief minister said that organisation should be built on firm ground as it will take the party forward in the country and the states.

“We should also keep the historical facts in mind that BJP had just 2 seats in 1984, but they have grown gradually and if we work we can also build the party. The Congress-ruled Delhi for 15 years, so its wrong to say it has been wiped out,” he added.

Similar sentiments were expressed by some of the Delhi leaders who said that it is time to build the party organisation first and then think of fighting elections.

The party in Delhi, which got 22 per cent votes in the Lok Sabha polls held last year, ended up with less than 5 per cent vote share in the Delhi assembly polls. Congress leaders have blamed excessive polarization among voters in which the party could not become a choice of any side.

The party reacted sternly with Congress Chief Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala warning that “blame game is not appreciated in the party.” He told party leaders to “introspect on your role before commenting on others and don’t cross the limit of discipline.”

“The party leaders should review their role during the elections and campaigning. They should also look at how they have performed,” said Surjewala.

Dismissing claims that the party withered during Shiela Dikshit’s time, Surjewala said under the chief ministership of Dikshit, Delhi had a golden period because she did commendable work for the city.

Reprimanding party leader Sharmistha Mukherjee, Surjewala said: “In democracy public is supreme if the public has given mandate to Kejriwal, then we are bound to accept the mandate and will work as a responsible opposition.”

Congress is looking forward to reorganising the party in the national capital.

“If you are at the lowest point, then this is the time to restructure the party. The party is more important because elections come and go,” said Congress working president Rajesh Lilothia.
Lilothia, a former MLA, fought the assembly elections but lost. “The Dalit vote shifted to AAP… the party should now come up with a strategy to get this chunk of voters back,” said Lilothia.

He also called for better coordination within the party.

Congress MP and former Union Minister Kapil Sibal said the party in Delhi doesn’t have a leader to project.

Ever since the death of Sheila Dikshit, the party kept the Delhi unit leaderless, elevating Subhash Chopra much later. “But he is no match to Kejriwal,” said a leader.

The party may pass the baton to younger leaders as there is no election round the corner. (IANS)