As Rahul Gandhi, in first remarks on the rout of the Congress in the UP Assembly elections, took no blame and called for structural and organisational changes, more and more party veterans said it was time the leadership considered drastic steps since the need of the hour was a “cardiac surgery”. “As far as the Congress party is concerned, we do need to make structural and organisational changes. That is a fact,” Rahul said Tuesday. “The BJP won in UP… why they won it. There are multiple reasons. Large part of it is polarisation… We are in the Opposition and you have ups and downs. So, we had a little down in UP which is fine, we accept it. But we have an ideological fight with the BJP and we will continue to do that,” he said, calling a 3-2 scoreboard not a “bad result”.
Frustration appears to be growing in the party after the stunning win of the BJP. Senior Congress leader K V Thomas told The Indian Express that the Congress leadership should rise to the expectations of the people. “People still believe that the Congress is the party which can lead the country against Narendra Modi… The party should improve its functioning in tune with that aspiration. We should be preparing ourselves, especially for elections, in advance. Not on the eve of elections. The state and central level leaderships should rise to the expectations of the people,” Thomas said.
Many leaders spoke of drastic steps. Former Union Minister M Veerappa Moily was the first to demand a major surgery in the party. Today, Congress whip in Rajya Sabha Satyavrat Chaturvedi echoed him, saying the need of the hour was a “cardiac surgery”.
“It has been three years (since the 2014 defeat). Nothing has happened so far. Everyone was waiting something will happen and are tired now. Now we have lost hope. And the results are before us,” Chaturvedi told The Indian Express. He said there is no point in giving suggestions now as “it is not being listened to… jin logon ki advice le rahe ho… unhi ki advice lo.” He said it is also high time the ambiguity over Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into politics ends.
Party veteran Mani Shankar Aiyar said it is clear that the Congress cannot take on the BJP on its own in 2019 and argued that it should strive to put together an “inclusive alliance” if it wants to defeat the BJP and “retrieve” the idea of India. Aiyar called the Uttar Pradesh mandate the “first victory of the concept of Hindu India after V D Savarkar put it forward in 1925.”
He said the BJP could not find even one Muslim candidate candidate from a population of 40 million Muslims to field in UP which meant that all non-Muslim castes and communities were sought to be “brought together and wrapped in the flag of Hindu nationalism”. “That is precisely opposite to the idea of India on the basis of which we won our Independence and consolidated our nationhood for the last seven decades,” he said.
“It is a huge challenge. And given this, as an inclusive political party that what we are, then we need to have an inclusive alliance… So we should work,” he said.
He said the mechanical points like who will lead the alliance and who will be its prime ministerial candidate can be worked out later. “What is your objective? To become Prime Minister or to retrieve the idea of India,” he said. “If we say that we will take on the BJP single-handedly, then I think that approach is doomed. But it is for the Indian National Congress to decide whether as a matter of strategy it wants to create an all inclusive coalition to battle… the move by the BJP to wrap all non-Muslim communities together in a Hindu pole.”
He said the fact that the Congress cannot take on the BJP on its own is “self-evident”. “I don’t think it requires a Mani Shankar Aiyar brain to come to this obvious conclusion. That the Congress cannot take on the BJP on its own in 2019 is a no-brainer. It is obvious,” he said.