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Congress stares at uncertain future after Lok Sabha debacle

By Anuj Cariappa

New Delhi, May 24: Dominating the country's politics for decades, the future of the Congress is now uncertain as it faced its second consecutive and humiliating Lok Sabha defeat at the hands of the BJP. The grand old party could manage to win only a few more seats than its 2014 tally of 44 and its severe drubbing again has raised questions over its existence, with voices raised within for having serious introspection on what went wrong despite the party's all-out efforts to reach out to the electorate.

The biggest shock to the Congress is its leader Rahul Gandhi losing the family pocket-borough of Amethi, held by the party since decades. It has again failed to get the post of Leader of Opposition in the lower house. Some insiders feel the party's negative and highly-personalised attack on Prime Minister Modi in the poll campaign like 'Chowkidar Chor Hai' digs and too much talk about Rafale did not work and harmed the party at the hustings.

File photo of Rahul Gandhi

The party's proposed "Nyay" (Nyuntam aay Yojna) scheme failed to enthuse voters.

Soon after the humiliating defeat, Rahul Gandhi was quick to take "100 per cent responsibility" for it and said the working committee would soon sit together and brainstorm on what went wrong.

'Nothing is impossible', says Smriti Irani after defeating Rahul Gandhi in Amethi

"I take 100 per cent responsibility for this defeat," he said, while sidestepping a question on whether he will resign. He added that the party's highest decision-making body - the working committee - will take a decision on this.

He also congratulated Narendra Modi and BJP for their victory and said he respected the people's verdict, but hoped Modi will look after the interests of the country.

"Today is not the day for me to go into the details of this mandate. Today is the day that a new prime minister has been elected and today is the day to wish him all the best and, hopefully, he will look after the interests of this country," Rahul said.

However, veteran Janardan Dwivedi, in a cryptic remark on the party's dismal showing said, "I am not surprised" with the results, but did not elaborate on the reasons for his reaction.

Once a strategic and key member of the Congress core team holding the all-powerful post of general secretary in the party, Dwivedi was last year replaced by Ashok Gehlot, who was brought in the CWC. Apart from not holding any party position, he remained away from the party decision-making processes, including the poll strategy for this Lok Sabha election.

Senior party leader Anand Sharma also called for serious introspection, saying it is time to reflect on what went wrong and evolve ways on how to rejuvenate the party.

"Accepting the people's verdict with all humility, I congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his victory. I hope the mandate gives grace and wisdom to leave the campaign bitterness behind and work towards unity," Sharma said.

"It is time to collectively introspect and reflect on what went wrong and mistakes made that led to this humiliating defeat. We remain committed to the Congress ideology and values and reflect on how to rejuvenate the party for the larger interest of the Indian democracy, with all honesty," Sharma said.

Rahul concedes defeat, congratulates Modi; says 'love will never fail'

The Congress scored a zero in as many as 17 states and Union territories, including in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat, where the party had fared well in last assembly elections in 2017, besides in Rajasthan where it formed its government only a few months ago.

The party merely managed to win one seat, that too by a narrow margin in Madhya Pradesh, where it had just formed its government, and only two seats in another state ruled by it - Chhattisgarh.

It drew a naught in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and some northeastern states except Assam, where it won three seats, and one seat in Meghalaya.

In Uttar Pradesh, only Sonia Gandhi managed to win.

The saving grace for the party came in Kerala, while it was victorious in eight seats in Punjab. In Tamil Nadu, it won eight out of nine seats it contested in coalition with the DMK.

In Puducherry, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa, the Congress managed to win only one seat each.

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