Rahul not cause of Cong poll debacle: Antony

Intra-party review seeks to insulate 'future leader' from blame

Rahul not cause of Cong poll debacle: Antony

An embattled Congress on Friday rushed to shield its “future leader” Rahul Gandhi and absolved him of any responsibility for the party’s crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.

A four-member informal panel, chaired by senior leader A K Antony, is learnt to have given a clean chit to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while blaming the election blitzkrieg launched by Narendra Modi for the Congress defeat.

Interestingly, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Congress had refused to acknowledge Modi’s challenge and dismissed him as a regional leader whose influence was limited to Gujarat. The Antony panel, which met over 500 Congress leaders from across the country to assess the electoral loss, submitted its voluminous report to the party president on Thursday.

At a function to celebrate the 68th Independence Day at the AICC headquarters, the former defence minister underscored that it was Sonia and her son Rahul who criss-crossed the country addressing election rallies. “Something else was the reason for the loss,” he insisted

. Privately though, a section of Congress leaders hold Rahul and his style of functioning as the key reason for the “sorry state” of the party which has been reduced to just 44 members in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad even blamed media as “one of the contributory factors” for the party’s defeat. His refrain was that the initiatives of the UPA government were never highlighted by the media, which “focussed on one person (Modi)”.

Congress leaders also cite Rahul’s inaccessibility and reluctance to lead as the key reasons for the alienation of voters. He spearheaded the Congress’ poll campaign, which was dubbed as ineffective in comparison with the high-voltage electioneering by the Modi-led BJP.

Jagdambika Pal, a BJP MP from Domariyaganj in Uttar Pradesh, said during his long stint with the Congress, he rarely got to meet Rahul but as a BJP member he has already met Prime Minister Narendra Modi several times. Pal had crossed over to the BJP before the April-May Lok Sabha elections. Antony’s clean chit to Rahul comes at a time when speculation was rife about his sister Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra assuming a larger role in the Congress party. Vadra, however, issued a statement that she was not in the running for any post in the party.

A number of leaders have quit the Congress and the party is facing dissidence in several states. Some leaders like  Birendra Singh, Jagmeet Singh Brar and a few others have been given the  marching orders for criticising the party leadership.

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