‘Rahul not responsible for Cong defeat in LS polls’

'Rahul not responsible for Cong defeat in LS polls'NEW DELHI: Rejecting criticism about Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, Congress leader A K Antony today said he was not responsible for the party’s Lok Sabha poll debacle and exuded optimism that it will revive under Sonia Gandhi and Rahul.

Antony, who headed a committee that probed the reasons for the party’s poll debacle and submitted its report to Sonia Gandhi yesterday, dismissed reports that there was a question mark on the leadership of Rahul after the elections and that the committee has suggested something like that.

“This is all speculation. Nothing. Absolutely wrong. Those who are spreading this kind of rumors want to weaken the party…such things are being spread by mischievous people, who want to weaken the party,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the flag hoisting ceremony at AICC headquarters.

Antony said the “reasons for the Congress defeat were something else”.

However, he did not elaborate as to what conclusions the panel has arrived at for the worst-ever defeat of Congress in the 2014 general elections.

Sonia and Rahul did not take questions from the media and left after wishing ‘Happy Independence Day’ to all.

Antony insisted that it was Sonia Gandhi and Rahul, who toured throughout the country and addressed rallies in the run-up to the polls.

At the outset, he said the panel chaired by him submitted the report to Sonia yesterday but refused to divulge details.

All the four members of the panel Antony, Mukul Wasnik, RC Khuntia and Avinash Pandey had met the Congress President and submitted the voluminous report.

“I do not want to go into details. I will not reveal the details…I do not want to say anything about the content of the report,” was his brief response to questions like whether his panel has faulted the communication strategy of the party or blamed the way media reported during Lok Sabha polls.

“We are confident, just as we did in 1977, we will overcome this difficult phase as well. Congress will overcome this. We will be able to regain the loss, strengthen our party, strengthen our mass base again. We will revive under leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul,” Antony said.

Asked about murmurs of dissent within the party over leadership, the party veteran, who had proposed anointment of Rahul as Vice President during Congress Chintan Shivir in Jaipur last year, said such leaders should instead do something to ensure that the party regains lost ground.

“They must do something to regain the ground. That we are confident of… We are 100 per cent confident of regaining lost ground,” he said.

Apart from giving a condensed over-all report on the Congress’ poor show nationwide, the report has also focused on specific states incorporating discussions held with their leaders on the reasons for the defeat and the recommendations of the panel, sources said.

With the Assembly polls in four states approaching, the report would help the leadership take remedial steps at the earliest to stem the rot.

Antony said during discussions with leaders from various states, it came out that only Sonia and Rahul campaigned.

The veteran leader suggested that the party did not work at other levels as strongly as was required.

Asked whether there will be changes in the party set up since he has already submitted the report citing reasons for the defeat, Antony said this is for the Congress President to decide.

On speculation of a larger role for Priyanka Gandhi in the party, Antony said,

“There is already a clarification from Priyankaji. I will not add anything.”

Priyanka had last week dismissed speculation surrounding her as “conjecture” and “baseless rumors”.

Sources indicated that instead of being critical of the leadership, the report talks about the alleged “manipulation of media coverage by the BJP, the lacunae in Congress campaign vis-a-vis the blitzkrieg of Narendra Modi’s election campaign and organizational weaknesses” of the party. Antony downplayed his earlier remarks that proximity to minority communities had led people to doubt the party’s secularism, saying it was “Kerala specific” remark made in a particular speech in a context.

Party general secretary Mukul Wasnik said the panel talked to around 500 leaders from various states before finalizing its report after a comprehensive discussion.

He said nobody raised questions about the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul.

The four-member panel was set up a fortnight after the results were out on May 16, which had come as a huge shock for the party.

The panel had begun the review exercise in June starting from Delhi, where all its seven Lok Sabha candidates including Union Ministers Kapil Sibal, Ajay Maken and Krishna Tirath had lost the polls.

The panel had also met the PCC chiefs, CLP leaders and other party functionaries from various states during the exercise.

The Congress had got its lowest tally of 44 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha in the general elections held in April-May this year.–PTI