Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid has said the party’s struggles are at the point that it may not be able to win key upcoming state elections or ensure its own future.
The party is facing attrition because it is taking too long to come to terms with its defeat in May national elections, former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told reporters late on Monday.
Khurshid said Rahul Gandhi left in a huff after the party’s defeat in national elections, and that his mother was appointed interim president in August until a new president is chosen by the party, possibly after the October state elections.
“We haven’t really got together to analyze why we got defeated. Our biggest problem is our leader has walked away,” Associated Press quoted Khurshid as saying, adding that Rahul Gandhi still retains the allegiance of the party.
“It’s kind of left a vacuum,” Khurshid said. “Sonia Gandhi stepped in, but there is more than an indication that she is treating herself as a stop-gap arrangement. I wish it wasn’t so.”
"This is perhaps the only time in history that a major defeat has not caused the party to lose confidence in their leader. If he had stayed and was around, we would've understood better the causes of our defeat and be better prepared to fight the battles in coming times," ANI quoted Khurshid as saying.
The Congress won only 52 of 542 parliamentary seats in the Lok sabha elections, compared to 303 won by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The party will face crucial tests in October 21 Assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra.
Party president Rahul Gandhi resigned after the May defeat. His mother, Sonia Gandhi, stepped in on an interim basis.
The party’s chief in Haryana quit following a difference with the party’s leadership over a choice of candidates. Ashok Tanwar was among the party’s main campaigners in the party’s bid to wrest power from the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state.
A revolt also is brewing in Maharashtra. Sanjay Nirupam, a key state leader there, threatened to quit the party after his recommendations for its nominees were rejected by the party leadership.
An Uttar Pradesh state lawmaker, Aditi Singh, also seemed to join the revolt by staying away from a street march held by Priyanka Gandhi, a party general secretary and daughter of Sonia Gandhi, in the family’s stronghold of Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh.
A top party leader and former finance minister, P. Chidambaram, has been arrested by federal investigators for alleged economic offenses, adding to the party’s woes.
Rahul Gandhi’s family, starting with his great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, has produced three prime ministers. Two of them — his grandmother Indira Gandhi and his father, Rajiv Gandhi — were assassinated in office.
Rahul Gandhi lost his own seat, long a Congress party bastion, in Uttar Pradesh in the recent elections. However, he won a seat from another constituency in southern India.
"I have very deep pain and concern about where we are today as a party. No matter what happens we won't leave the party, we aren't like those who got everything from the party and when the chips were down, things were difficult they left the party and walked away," news agency ANI quoted Khurshid as saying.
He further said that the party needs to know as to what led them to such a state.
"We need to know why we are in the state in which we are. Unfortunately despite our earnest pleading Rahul Gandhi decided to step down and resign from the president post. We wanted him to continue but it was his decision and we respect it," he added.
(With inputs from Associated Press and ANI)