Rahul Gandhi under fire after Congress's rout in three states

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi addresses the media during a visit to his parliamentary constituency Wayanad, Tuesday, Oct 20, 2020. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: The poll defeats in Kerala, West Bengal and Assam have once again sparked dissent in the Congress party.

Senior leader Kapil Sibal demanded the leadership to seriously examine the factors that had led to the party’s rout. He pointed out that besides the failures in Kerala and Assam, the Congress was annihilated in Bengal, where it could not win even a single seat.

Refraining from criticizing the party in public, Sibal said he would raise the issues at the appropriate forum. He was among a group of 23 senior Congress leaders (G-23), who had earlier come out against the style of functioning of party leaders, including Rahul Gandhi.

The Congress has not yet taken up for discussion the defeats it suffered in the Assembly polls, but has been waiting for reports on the party's performance. Leaders like Sibal have already expressed displeasure over the delay in discussing the electoral defeats.

Questions have been raised within the party over the Congress’s decision to contest against Mamata Banerjee, instead of supporting her. Those questioning the decision felt the party had committed a political blunder by forming a third front, which split the anti-BJP votes.

Kamal Nath, former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, said Banerjee has now emerged as the leader of the nation. He, however, did not specifically answer on whether she would be projected as the opposition’s prime ministerial candidate opposite Narendra Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

Nath said the United Progressive Front would decide on the leader later.

The leaders reflected the simmering anger within the party against the style of functioning of the current leadership. They pointed out that the present style of functioning would not take the party forward. Incidentally, Congress would be selecting its national president next month-end.

The leaders’ words echoed their opposition to Rahul Gandhi becoming the president again, besides their lack of trust in him. Indications are that they won’t hesitate to field a candidate against Gandhi if he tries to be the party president again.

Senior leaders to hear demand for leadership change

The Congress high command has assigned senior MPs M Mallikarjun Kharge and V Vaithilingam to see whether the poll debacle calls for a change in the party’s Kerala leadership.

Though both the leaders were scheduled to reach Kerala next week, the meetings might be shifted online in the light of the COVID-19 necessitated lockdown that would come into effect in the State at 6 am on Saturday.

A section of leaders in the party has already demanded the opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran to take up moral responsibility for the rout and step down from their posts.

Kharge and Vaithilingam would also hold talks with the successful Congress candidates.

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