Knives out in Cong after defeat, others join Sheila, Pawar to target Centre

CongressA day after the 0-4 loss of the Congress in Assembly elections, knives were out in party targeting Centre for the failure. (PTI)
A day after the 0-4 loss of the Congress in Assembly elections caused NCP chief Sharad Pawar to sound alarm bells about weak rulers in the Congress and Sheila Dikshit to claim the state unit of the party had not been fully with her, there was more turmoil Tuesday with top state leaders of the Congress trading punches over the poll debacle.

Senior Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi fired a salvo at former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh saying he is "unwelcome" to the people "since he was ousted along with the Congress".

"Digvijaya Singh is someone people in MP detest. The PCC chief and CLP leader are his stooges. We could not convince the people who were apprehensive that Digvijaya Singh and his team will come back to power. People do not accept the negative and destructive style of politics Digvijaya Singh and his cohorts play," Chaturvedi told The Indian Express.

Blaming a "delay in decision-making", he said Jyotiraditya Scindia was "introduced" as campaign committee chief "a bit too late".

"The other reason is that the PCC was completely dysfunctional. Ticket distribution was another factor. Apart from the quality of candidates, their declaration also came late. Rahul Gandhi had announced at the Jaipur conclave that candidates will be announced three months in advance," said Chaturvedi.

While Chaturvedi targeted Digvijaya Singh, Chandrabhan, who resigned as Rajasthan PCC chief Monday blamed the "failures of the Central and state governments" for the party's debacle.

"Price-rise was a big factor and then there were corruption issues. Party workers were also demoralised because they never got support from the government. There was also this perception that our welfare schemes came too late - only for election purposes," he told The Indian Express when asked to elaborate on the failure.

At a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi Monday, the Manmohan Singh government had come under indirect attack from party general secretaries in charge of these states, all of whom cited "price-rise" as one of the major factors for the loss of people's trust in the party.

A day earlier, Sonia herself had cited price-rise as a factor. She asked the general secretaries "not to get demoralised" and rather focus on the Lok Sabha elections, saying she would hold further discussions after her return from South Africa.

A senior party leader and Union minister Tuesday emphasized the need for the party to declare its prime ministerial candidate well in advance.

"Only then the people will hear what we say. It could be Rahul Gandhi or anybody else, but he has to be a match for Modi in communication skill," he said. The leader, however, added that the party is unlikely to declare the PM candidate as was evident from the fact that Sonia had stated that he would be declared at an "opportune time".

Daggers were also drawn in Delhi with leaders complaining about what they said was Sheila Dikshit seeking to marginalise the party and run a "self-centred" poll campaign. They alleged she did not want central leaders, including the PM, to campaign due to the UPA government's battered image. Besides, she sought to highlight regularising unauthorised colonies, flyovers and the metro as achievements even though they had been publicised in earlier polls, they said.

"The entire poll campaign was being run from the chief minister's residence with no involvement of the DPCC. All tickets were given, including those to tainted MLAs, at the CM's behest," said a senior Delhi Congress leader, adding that the DPCC had recommended dropping 20 sitting MLAs but the CM did not agree. He said the state unit had flagged off the rising graph of the Aam Aadmi Party but it was ignored.

While it is not clear how the Congress high command will respond to the infighting in Delhi, the central leadership could not absolve itself of blame either.

During meetings presided over by Rahul Gandhi in February-March this year, DPCC chief J P Agarwal and Dikshit had indulged in verbal spats with the DPCC chief complaining of non-cooperation from the government and the CM hitting back saying that her job was to run the government.

Rahul had wound up warning that indiscipline and infighting would not be tolerated but made no effort subsequently to ensure coordination.

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