Sonia Gandhi’s strong words come days after she described the Congress’ performance in last month’s elections as “very disappointing” and said it was “unexpectedly so”
Interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Monday demanded the party “take note of our serious setbacks (and) put our house in order”, after yet more disappointing performances in elections.
She said senior leaders from Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Bengal – the states that held elections in April-May – would be required to “brief us, very frankly, on our performance…”
“We want them to tell us why we performed well below expectation. These results tell us clearly that we need to put our house in order,” Mrs Gandhi said, as he delivered the opening remarks at a meeting of the CWC (Congress Working Committee) – the party’s highest decision-making body.
“We have to take note of our serious setbacks. To say that we are deeply disappointed is to make an understatement. I intend to set up a small group to look at every aspect that caused such reverses and report back very quickly,” she added.
The Congress is also set to discuss internal elections – a sensitive subject given in-fighting between senior leaders, some of whom have expressed concern over leadership issues.
Mrs Gandhi’s strong words come days after she described their performance in last month’s Assembly elections as “very disappointing” and added that it was “unexpectedly so”.
The Congress struggled to appeal to voters in this round of Assembly elections.
In Bengal, where the party joined hands with the Left, it was shut out and the alliance was decimated. By contrast the Trinamool swept to victory with 213 seats to the BJP’s 77.
In Assam – widely seen as a Congress stronghold until it was breached in 2016 – the party did marginally better, winning 29 of 95 seats it contested. But the opposition alliance failed to challenge the BJP, winning just 50 seats to the ruling party’s 75.
In Kerala, the Congress at least held its ground, losing just one seat from 2016 to finish with 41. The Left front, however, registered a commanding win by claiming 99 seats. The BJP won zero seats.
In Tamil Nadu, the party was part of the winning DMK-led alliance and performed relatively better, winning 18 of 25 allocated seats. It, however, failed to return to power in Puducherry – where its government crashed days before polling – after the NR Congress-BJP pairing won 16 of 30 seats.
These results come after a poor performance in Bihar, where elections were held in October-November. The party allied with the Tejashwi Yadav’s RJD, but won just 19 of 70 seats it contested and the alliance finished just 15 seats short of overthrowing the BJP-JDU government.
Over the past year several senior leaders have called for introspection over continuing poor performances in elections, including veterans like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Kapil Sibal.
In August, 23 of them wrote to Mrs Gandhi to call for “full time” and visible” leadership to take the party forward, triggering a row that split the party down the middle.
In January, the party, after controversial (and public) spats between senior leaders, said a new Congress chief would be elected in June, after the 2021 state elections were completed.