A day after it was blanked in the Delhi Assembly elections with its lowest vote share ever, a row erupted in the Congress after AICC Delhi in-charge P C Chacko sought to blame the late Sheila Dikshit for the start of the decline in the party’s fortunes. He also said “any sensible person would have anticipated the defeat of the Congress in Delhi”.
Latika Dikshit, daughter of the former Chief Minister who ruled Delhi for 15 years and in whose name the Congress sought votes this election, struck back, saying “Mr Chacko should be answering this… how his conscience allows him to say things like this for a person who has passed away”.
“I think we all have been brought up in a way that you don’t comment on somebody who is gone. I think it speaks volumes about Mr Chacko and I don’t think it’s worth commenting. She is gone and I am still mourning, it’s a great loss to me personally,” Latika said.
By Wednesday evening, Congress president Sonia Gandhi had accepted the resignations of Chacko and DPCC chief Subhash Chopra — AICC general secretary Shaktisinh Gohil was made the interim party in-charge of Delhi.
Dikshit’s former aide Pawan Khera also responded to Chacko’s comments with election figures. In a tweet, he said, “Just a data point. In 2013, when we lost, Congress vote share in Delhi was 24.55 pc. Sheilaji was not involved in 2015, when the vote share slipped to 9.7 pc. In 2019, when she was back in charge, the vote share came up to 22.46 pc.”
On Thursday, ANI quoted Chacko saying “The downfall of the Congress party started in 2013 when Sheilaji was the CM. The emergence of a new party AAP took away the entire Congress vote bank. We could never get it back. It still remains with AAP.”
However, speaking to The Indian Express, he denied having named Dikshit. “I did not mention her name. I am being deliberately targeted,” he said.
“I said that we lost in 2013. I did not mention the name of Sheila Dikshit. It is a plain fact. In 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017… in Assembly, Parliament and municipal elections, we lost badly. That I mentioned. I did not put the blame on any individual. I did not take the name of Dikshit. It has been twisted and is being circulated on social media. There are some miscreants, some elements in Delhi who are doing this. I know who they are. I don’t take it seriously,” he said.
“Why the Congress lost in 2013? We had a very successful government under Dikshit. All development happened during her period. We hold her in very high esteem and honour. We always recall her period as the glorious period of the Congress. But a new party came up. What happened was that there were lots of allegations against the Congress, not only in Delhi but also at all-India level.”
“In that atmosphere, a new party came up. We all recollect the Anna Hazare movement, Arvind Kejriwal’s party formation and the media hype he got that this is going to be a party against corruption. In that atmosphere, the Congress rank and file defected to Kejriwal’s side. We did not get that following back, till today. The Congress’s traditional vote base which left Congress and joined AAP did not come up. That is a plain fact, a historical fact,” he said.
“Any election (defeat) will affect other places also. Especially in the national capital when we are losing… that will affect other places also. But any sensible person would have anticipated the defeat of the Congress in Delhi. I do not find any surprise in that. I was anticipating this. We could have performed a little better… probably one can say. But that does not mean that we were in a winning position,” Chacko said.
“In the last three-four elections, we fought and came only second or third. Because the Aam Aadmi Party and the BJP are much stronger in Delhi than Congress. Congress can be strong only when we get our back our lost vote bank,” he said.
In Delhi, the Congress got 9.65 per cent of the votes in 2015 which went up to 22.43 per cent in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 — it had come second in five of the seven Lok Sabha seats. Its vote share plummeted to 4.26 per cent this Assembly election. As many as 63 of its 66 candidates lost their deposits (each got less than a sixth of the votes polled) — in 2015, 62 of its candidates had lost their deposits.
Congress leader Milind Deora also slammed Chacko’s remarks: “Sheila Dikshit ji was a remarkable politician and administrator. During her tenure as chief minister, Delhi was transformed and Congress was stronger than ever. Unfortunate to see her being blamed after her death. She dedicated her life to Congress and the people of Delhi.”
Meanwhile, Congress leader Sharmishtha Mukherjee took on senior leader P Chidambaram who had welcomed the AAP win as “defeat of bluff and bluster”.
She asked the former Union Minister if the state Congress units should shut shop in case the party had decided that others will take on the BJP across states.
“With due respect sir, just want to know- has Congress outsourced the task of defeating BJP to state parties? If not, then why r we gloating over AAP victory rather than being concerned abt our drubbing? And if ‘yes’, then we (PCCs) might as well close shop!,” Mukherjee said in a tweet, responding to Chidambaram.
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