For the first time after the Lok Sabha election defeat, Rahul Gandhi Monday met Chief Ministers of the five Congress-ruled states who asked him to reconsider his decision to step down as Congress president. But Rahul did not give any indication on changing his mind, signalling that the crisis that has hit the party is far from over.
At least one chief minister, Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot, said that they “own up” responsibility for the election loss. He said the chief ministers hope Rahul will take a positive decision. Rahul is learnt to have told the CMs that he has already conveyed his decision to the Congress Working Committee (CWC). He also asked them to arrive at a consensus on an alternative.
Rahul is said to be upset that none of those state leaders and in charges under whose watch the party fared badly have owned up responsibility and resigned — even after he decided to step down on the principle of accountability.
On whether he and his Madhya Pradesh counterpart Kamal Nath offered to resign, Gehlot said the chief ministers have been offering to resign since the results came out.
“(The Chief Ministers) have offered to resign. With regard to elections, it is always the high command which takes decisions on the future course of action. The entire working committee had authorised Rahul Gandhi to take whatever decision he wants…reorganisation, replacement. Whatever he wants to do, that decision was taken on May 25 (at the CWC meeting). That is not an issue for discussion now,” Gehlot said after the meeting, which lasted nearly two hours.
Rahul came face-to-face with all the five chief ministers — Gehlot, Nath, Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel, Punjab’s Amarinder Singh and Puducherry’s V Narayanasamy. At the CWC meeting, he had come down heavily on Gehlot and Nath, accusing them of having put the interests of their sons ahead of that of the party. Despite requests, he had earlier denied to meet them.
Puducherry Chief Minister Narayanasamy told The Indian Express that they only discussed the issue of Rahul’s resignation. “We requested him. He heard us very patiently. We told him that he has to lead the party at this juncture. He heard us one by one. Let us see what he decides. He did not convey his mind,” he said. Narayanasamy claimed Gehlot and Nath did not offer to resign during the meeting.
Gehlot said the chief ministers have conveyed to Rahul “the feelings of Congress workers, what they think, what leaders of the Congress party think and what we think. It was a frank and open discussion. We told him that parties win and lose elections…he heard us patiently. We spoke from the heart. We are hopeful that he will listen to us and take a right decision at the appropriate time”.
Asked whether Rahul agreed to reconsider his decision, Gehlot said “we have conveyed our feelings…”
Gehlot said Rahul had made the elections “issue based” and campaigned on the basis on principles, policies and programmes while the BJP “misled” the country over issues of patriotism.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, “hid behind the armed forces and misled the people in the name of religion”. “He did not talk about development, economy, employment,” Gehlot said.