New Delhi | Annihilated in Delhi polls, a shocked Congress today promised to reinvent itself nd revisit its idealogical construct. Party chief Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi congratulated Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi party for their landslide victory saying they respect the verdict. The party’s face for the polls Ajay Maken resigned as general secretary owning moral responsibility for the defeat while a senior party leader suggested that internal dissension was also one of the reasons for the total decimation of the party in Delhi.
Insulating Rahul Gandhi from the blame for the defeat, Maken, who was the Campaign Committee Chief of the party, said that the election was fought on local issues. At the same time, he also appeared placing a portion of the blame at former chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s door saying that people questioned Congress as to why it did not fulfil the promises made now when it was in power in Delhi for last 15 years. Dikshit and Maken are not on very best of terms.
Asked what is the way out for Congress as people have rejected the party with a new face this time as well after voting out three-term Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in last assembly polls, he said that the result is a continuation of 2013 mandate and it’s more an affirmation for AAP than rejection of any other party. Whenever we went to people with our manifesto promises like cheap electricity and right to shelter, people questioned why did you not do in last 15 years. We have to rebuild that credibility among people…. We will re-invent the party, he said.
Congress led by Sheila Dikshit had ruled for 15 consecutive years in Delhi till 2013 state polls, which threw a hung verdict with Congress winning only eight seats. In this election, the party has lost in all those seats as well.
Congress had fielded former MPs Ajay Maken and Mahabal Mishra, both of whom lost with the latter biting the dust in his Dwarka stronghold. Veteran Shoaib Iqbal, who had won the last elections on a Janata Dal (United) ticket and joined Congress days before the Delhi polls, also lost. Congress had touted his siding with the party as a major gain, saying it would send a strong signal to minorities.
The prominent losers included Congress power minister and five-time sitting MLA Haroon Yusuf, who was the Congress Legislature Party Leader in Delhi. Apart from Yusuf, other Congress MLAs like Hasan Ahmed, Asif Mohammad Khan and Chaudhary Mateen Ahmad, too, lost. Breaking with the the past, the party had this time announced the names of its candidates for the polls much in advance. In fact, it was the first time in the party’s history that its candidates were named before the announcement of poll dates by the Election Commission.
Former Ministers in Sheila Dikshit’s Cabinet, Raj Kumar Chauhan and AK Walia, who were defeated in the last Assembly elections, had been given tickets from the Mangolpuri and Laxminagar seats, respectively. Both had represented their constituencies for four terms before they were defeated in the last polls. Their luck had not changed this time. Sitting MLAs Devendra Yadav, Jaikishan and Prahlad Singh Sawhney, too, lost while sitting MLA and PCC chief Arvinder Singh Lovely had opted out of the contest and decided to work for the party instead.
A number of party candidates who had come second in the last Assembly election were this time renominated in the hope that the party could benefit from their established standing, but to no avail. Neither did its gamble of fielding President Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmishtha Mukherjee in Greater Kailash pay off for Congress. The party also went populist this time and promised power tariff at the rate Rs 1.50 per unit along with the right to shelter for the homeless.
It tried to hard sell the development of Delhi like Metro services, CNG buses and flyovers constructed during Dikshit’s rule. But nothing worked for Congress while there was also criticism that while the party appointed a new PCC chief, Lovely, there was no organisation in place. Shell-shocked by the defeat, party leaders have given the call for Congress to reinvent itself and revisit its idealogical construct. There is also a muted admission within the party that internal dissension contributed to the pathetic show.
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