From a failed alliance with the JD(S) to the possibility of electronic voting machines (EVM) being misused, defeated Lok Sabha election candidates of the Congress got down to formally assess the party’s poll rout for the first time Wednesday.
The Congress fielded 21 candidates in the Lok Sabha polls and only one of them won. Except Mallikarjun Kharge, B K Hariprasad, D R Patil, Krishna Byre Gowda and Eshwar Khandre, the remaining defeated Congress candidates attended the review meeting chaired by AICC general secretary in-charge of Karnataka K C Venugopal. Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah was also present.
According to sources, the leaders blamed the party’s alliance with the JD(S), which they pointed out that it did not work in their favour. Veteran leader M Veerappa Moily, who lost from Chikkaballapur, is said to have told Venugopal that a victory may have been possible without an alliance with the JD(S), which he has stated publicly.
Apparently, he recalled the victory of the 9 Congress MPs against a “Modi wave” in 2014. This time, they could not win even with an alliance in place, Venugopal is said to have been told. The leaders also discussed how the general sense of negativity surrounding the H D Kumaraswamy-led Congress-JD(S) coalition government may have contributed to their defeat. There is already pressure on the Congress leadership to reconsider the alliance for the next election, whenever it happens.
The review was a closed-door meeting and the party is understood to have asked the defeated candidates not to disclose details of the discussion in order to minimize embarrassment.
Some defeated MPs such as V S Ugrappa raised the issue of possible EVM misuse. This was discussed on the basis that their defeat was shocking because the poll atmosphere was in their favour. But the leadership urged them to move on, lest there was credible proof to establish EVM misuse.
Going forward, Venugopal urged the leaders to learn from mistakes and focus on strengthening the party. The defeated candidates are to remain in their constituencies and work with citizens.
The party has planned district-wise conventions to match its coalition partner JD(S) that has already started the process of reviving the party. The conventions will help the Congress consolidate its core Ahinda support base. The party also discussed conducting a membership drive to boost its grassroots strength.