Congress begins introspection on Gujarat defeat

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New Delhi, Dec 24 (UNI)A day after its crushing defeat in Gujarat, the Congress today began a soul searching exercise with its President Sonia Gandhi holding a brain-storming session with senior Central and state leaders to find out what went wrong in the state assembly election.

"We have begun introspection and internal assessment,"AICC General Secretary in charge of party affairs in Gujarat, Mr B K Hariprasad, told mediapersons after the two-hour-long meeting at Ms Gandhi's 10 Janpath residence.

Asked if any of the leaders in charge of the Gujarat poll offered to resign at the meeting, he said there was no such development.

However, he and Gujarat PCC Chief Bharatsinh Solanki had already owned up responsibibility for the poll debacle.

He said the meeting today discussed the preliminary report prepared by the state unit of the party.

"We will discuss further after the final report is received," Mr Hariprasad said.

The fact that the meeting was convened within a day after the defeat underlined the seriousness with which the Congress had taken the defeat at the hands of Chief Minister Narendra Modi who was accused of "converting communal card into Gujarat pride." External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, HRD Minister Arjun Singh, AICC General Secretaries Hariprasad, Prithviraj Chavan, Mukul Wasnik and Digvijay Singh, Ms Gandhi's Political Secretary Ahmed Patel and senior party leaders from Gujarat - Arjun Modh Wadia, Bharathsinh Solanki, Shankersinh Vaghela and Dinsha Patel- attended the meeting. Mr Hariprasad is in charge of party affairs in Gujarat.

AICC General Secretary in charge of Media Veerappa Moily told mediapersons that the effort to find out what went wrong would continue. "Ms Gandhi has begun the exercise today." He denied the suggestion that the "merchant of death" remark of Ms Gandhi had gone in favour of Mr Modi. "It was not a mistake. The remark was intended to offer the electorate of Gujarat a choice between secular vision and sentimental divisive policy." Mr Moily also refused to buy the suggestion that the Congress would have fared better had it projected a leader as its Chief Ministerial candidate. "The people of Gujarat knew it very well that it would get a Congressman from Gujarat as their Chief minister in the event of the party winning the poll." He said the Congress would first analyse the reasons for the party's poor show in Gujarat. The next step would be to prepare a concrete plan to erase the communalism of the BJP from the political map of India.

Mr Moily said the Congress would make an appropriate road map so that it could fare better in Gujarat in the next Lok Sabha elections. "We will work out an appropriate strategy well ahead.' He appealed to Mr Modi to stop playing communal card for the benefit of the country. "If he takes the communal card further beyond the boundaries of Gujarat, it will wreck the secular fabric of the nation." Replying to a question, Mr Moily said the Congress would continue to remain at the centre-stage to fight against communalism.

On another question, he clarified that the Congress was not pro-Muslim. "We believe in a secularism which is against fundamentalism of any religion." He said the Gujarat poll verdict would strengthen the process of polarisation of secular forces.


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