Digvijay, Antony put Congress in a tough spot

Leaders question party's poll strategy, Rahul's credibility

Digvijay, Antony put Congress in a tough spot

Statements by two Congress veterans raising questions about the party’s strategy as well as its leadership in the recent Lok Sabha polls gave indications of restlessness within the rank and file after the electoral drubbing.

AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh appeared to question Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s temperament to rule, while former defence minister A K Antony said the party’s apparent proximity to minority communities led people to doubt its commitment to secularism.

In an interview to a Goa-based television channel, Singh said Rahul should have taken up the responsibility of leading the party in the polls and taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

“He (Rahul) is by temperament not a ruler. He is by temperament someone who wants to fight injustice,” Singh said.

Singh’s remarks came at a time when Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul are facing criticism for lack of leadership skills from a section of the party as well as its opponents.

After Rahul’s reluctance, the Congress president nominated senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge as the leader of the party in the Lok Sabha.

With his remarks triggering a controversy, Singh issued a clarification. “No. I said he is always fighting against injustice and therefore he is not for power. He fights injustice. That is the difference between us and him,” Singh told reporters in Bangalore on Saturday.

The Congress could win only 44 seats, 10 less than the number required to claim the post of the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Meanwhile, Antony’s remarks in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday on the party’s proximity towards minority communities has brought in public domain the apprehensions expressed by a section of the Congress leaders privately.

“There appears to be doubt in the minds of some people that while professing and practising secularism, the party has some slants... that all sections of people do not receive equal justice. This has to be removed,” said Antony.

AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed said the observations made by Antony would be part of the deliberations the Congress would have on the electoral debacle.

A senior AICC leader said he had written to Antony about six months ago on the party’s focus on minority community and the apprehension that the BJP might project the Congress as a pro-Muslim party to derive political mileage.

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