As exit polls on news channels forecast a rout for the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections, party chief Sonia Gandhi, second in-command Rahul Gandhi and several senior functionaries went into a huddle to take a stock of the situation.
Congress top brass met the party in-charge of states and took their feedback, sources said, adding that according to party’s internal assessment the post-poll picture was not rosy.
The Congress core group too met separately to discuss the future, minutes after voting for the 16th Lok Sabha came to a close. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram were part of the deliberations.
Even before the results of the exit polls were out, the Congress made it clear that the outcome, good or bad, would not be a reflection on Rahul’s leadership.
The stress, party leaders said, would be on “collective” responsibility, but in private many rued lack of coordination even in the campaign management. “This, of course, was one of the most difficult elections for the Congress. But, even then one can say we did not fight like a unit,” a Union Minister said.
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“Rahul Gandhi is not in the government. He is the number two leader in the party. Sonia Gandhi is the president. Then, naturally there is local leadership. Whatever be the result, it will be a collective (responsibility),” AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed said.
Sources said general secretaries Janardan Dwivedi, Shakeel Ahmed, Mohan Prakash, C P Joshi, B K Hariprasad, Ajay Maken besides Union Ministers Oscar Fernandes, Vayalar Ravi, Rajiv Shukla and E M Sudarsana Natchiappan and senior leaders such as Kumari Selja and Satyavrat Chaturvedi attended the meeting at Sonia’s 10, Janpath residence.
Although most of the exit polls have projected a conclusive victory for the BJP-led NDA, a section of the Congress predicted a fractured mandate, in the event of which they felt the BJP would be hard-pressed to find allies. Ahmed pointed out that BSP leader Mayawati, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee have ruled out any truck with the BJP.
“The BJP has now demanded that Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik should also be brought under the ambit of the CBI investigation into the Saradha chit fund. It seems Naveen Patnaik has also ruled out any post alliance with BJP,” he said.