Even as the ‘cop-slapping’ incident outside the party office on Friday overshadowed Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s first visit to Shimla after his party’s defeat in the Himachal Assembly elections, he minced no words to convey his displeasure to the state leadership on some of the key factors contributing against the party in the state.
In presence of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, and some of the cabinet ministers—who also lost the polls, beside PCC president Sukhwinder Sukhu, Gandhi said, “Arrogance of people in power, and their disconnection with the masses led to the party’s defeat.”
The Congress president was not convinced with the explanation of some leaders on the shortcoming of the party’s campaign to match BJP’s resources, and cut them short mid-way their speeches. He admitted that the rebels contesting against the official candidates also queered the party’s pitch.
He made a direct reference to former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who he said, failed to look into short comings of the campaign since he was given the responsibility as party’s Chief Ministerial face.
He drew a parallel with Congress campaign in Gujarat and said it was best managed while pointing out that this was not a case in Himachal Pradesh. The campaign was weak, he added.
“The excuses like lack of resources are totally unacceptable. The congress was very much in the power in the state. It had to manage its resources for the poll not looking up to the party. The Congress high command can only fund the states where the part is not in power,” he told when former Speaker Jagat Singh Negi raised this issue.
PCC general secretary Harbhajan Singh Bhajji made a direct attack against former Chief Minister for a sabotage. He alleged that Independent candidate against him was vice-Chairman of HPTDC and was drawing support from Virbhadra Singh, who also dropped hints to back CPM candidate at Theog, instead lending support to the congress candidate, perhaps as part of the deal.
Another elected MLA Lakhwinder Rana from Nalagarh also named a Virbhadra Singh loyalist fighting as rebel against him. He alleged that since he (rebel) was also INTUC president and heading HP state Construction workers’ board distributed freebies to the voters.
Few candidates, who had lost the polls also blamed on the EVMs and others attacked the BJP for sending an army of star campaigners while it was Virbhadra Singh alone fighting against the BJP’s high profile campaign single handedly.
Former Minister G S Bali, who had lost the poll by 1,000 votes, admitted that there were shortcomings in the leadership and some of the promises made in the manifesto like unemployment allowance were not properly implemented .
Dropping a clear signal that he was looking-up to making gains in the Lok Sabha polls, Rahul Gandhi said there were infighting in the party and proper coordination between the organisation and government also marred the chances of the party.
“I am in favour of a single-line leadership and those enjoying clean image ,beside their connect with the masses will get the Lok Sabha tickets,” he announced.
The meeting of the party, was held in three separate sessions first two sessions with candidates from Kangra and Hamirpur, next those from Shimla and Mandi. Later, Gandhi also addressed Block ,DCC office bearers and PCC leaders before returning.
PCC president Sukhwinder Sukhu also spoke at the meeting, to sum-up on the factors for the party’s defeat while AICC General secretary Sushil Kumar Shinde also attended. In fact, Shinde had earlier visited Shimla and later submitted his report to Rahul Gandhi, which perhaps, gave him clear impression about the defeat.