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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

‘Need to put house in order’: Sonia sets up panel to look into Cong’s election defeat

“These will yield uncomfortable lessons, but if we do not face up to reality, if we do not look the facts in the face, we will not draw the right lessons,” Sonia Gandhi said.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: May 11, 2021 2:55:26 am
Sonia Gandhi

CONGRESS PRESIDENT Sonia Gandhi on Monday told a meeting of the Congress Working Committee that she is setting up a committee to look into the party’s humiliating defeat in the Assembly elections, thus deftly avoiding an immediate stock taking which could have resulted in venting of anger and questioning of the leadership. The CWC also shied away from addressing the tricky leadership issue by deferring elections for the post of Congress president once again citing the pandemic.

There was some plain speaking nevertheless at the CWC, which met for the first time after the election debacle. Senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the signatories of the letter 23 leaders had written to Gandhi last year seeking changes in the party, pointed out that the party’s performance would have been the same in Assam had it not aligned with the AIUDF, bringing to the table the unease in the party over the alliance with the Muslim outfit.

Azad, sources said, also pointed out that the central leadership should be involved and kept in the loop in policy matters like alliances. He was possibly hinting at the Congress’s association with Indian Secular Front (ISF) in West Bengal. Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma, another member of the G 23, had earlier argued that the Congress’s alliance with parties such as ISF militates against the core ideology of the party and Gandhian and Nehruvian secularism and that these issues need to be approved by the CWC.

Earlier, Gandhi set the tone for the CWC meeting saying the party should take note of the 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. We need to candidly understand why in Kerala and Assam we failed to dislodge the incumbent governments, and why in West Bengal we drew a complete blank,” she said.

“These will yield uncomfortable lessons, but if we do not face up to the reality, if we do not look the facts in the face, we will not draw the right lessons,” she said. “These results tell us clearly that we need to put our house in order.”

By making such a strong statement and announcing setting up of a committee, Gandhi ensured that the CWC does not get into a blame game on the results. AICC general secretary in charge of organisation K C Venugopal said the panel, the composition of which is to be announced in the next 48 hours, will meet state leaders, candidates and workers to find out the reasons for the defeat and give its report to the Congress president at the earliest.

Many leaders, especially those from the G 23, saw it as “time tested” tactic of the leadership to buy time to “cool off tempers”. “This is the not the first time… we have been setting up committees to go into election defeats. Sadly no one has seen the reports of those panels or neither felt the action taken on it…. the groups have become a farce,” a leader said.

As for elections for the post of a full-time Congress president, sources said there was unanimity in the CWC that the exercise should be deferred given the severity of the pandemic situation. Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who many believe will replace Sonia once again, did not attend the meeting as he is yet to recover from Covid.

“Even those from the G 23 said it is not the right time to hold elections,” one leader said.

Sources said the Madhusudan Mistry headed Central Election Authority tasked with holding the elections had suggested that elections can be held in the second half of June. Source said the Authority had proposed that election be held on June 23.

Sources said Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot proposed that there should be no election now in view of the Covid-19 situation and Azad seconded him. Azad, it is learnt, said that no one in the party was seeking an election right now.

But the party argued Gandhi has made it clear that the deferment cannot be open-ended. “The Congress president is very clear that this deferment is not an open ended deferment. It is for two to three months… as the situation stabilizes… Congress party as also Soniaji are committed to holding the elections as early as possible…,” Congress communication department in charge Randeep Surjewala said.

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