After the Congress managed to win exactly zero seats in the Delhi Assembly elections, party leaders have reacted by either congratulating voters for rejecting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or slamming other leaders for “gloating” over AAP’s victory.
No, the Grand Old Party doesn’t seem to have a Plan C till now.
It began on Tuesday after Election Commission leads showed that the Congress would repeat its performance from 2015 and actually do worse in terms of vote percentage.
The party’s vote share in the 2020 Delhi elections was just 4.26% — down from 9.7% in 2015 — and 63 of its candidates lost their deposits. As per the Election Commission rules, if a candidate fails to get at least one-sixth of the total valid votes polled in their constituency, they have to forfeit the deposit.
The Congress had contested on 66 seats this time, leaving four for its ally Rashtriya Janata Dal.
On Wednesday, AICC Delhi in-charge PC Chacko resigned from his post and strangely sought to put the blame of the party’s decline on late chief minister Sheila Dikshit. “The downfall of the Congress party started in 2013 when Sheilaji was the Chief Minister. The emergence of a new party AAP took away the entire Congress vote bank. We could never get it back. It still remains with AAP,” he told ANI.
However, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi had told NDTV on Tuesday that the party leaders “sorely miss Sheila Dikshit’s persona”. “We lost a tall leader and we could not pitch anyone else effectively,” he had said.
Even on other important matters, Congress leaders didn’t seem to be on the same page.
Sharmistha Mukherjee, daughter of former president Pranab Mukherjee, took on senior leader P. Chidambaram, who had saluted the people of Delhi for setting “an example to other states” by defeating the “polarising” and “divisive” agenda of the BJP.
Mukherjee asked the former Union minister if Congress had outsourced the task of defeating BJP to state parties.
On Tuesday, as the results were trickling in, Mukherjee had strong words for her party leadership as well, tweeting that “inordinate delay in decision making at the top, lack of strategy and unity at state level, demotivated workers, no grassroots connect, all are factors” in the Congress’s drubbing in Delhi.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, in a tweet said the Delhi results were disappointing for the party, but there were consolations — “the BJP’s divisive politics has been repudiated with their rout, AAP’s development message is what has prevailed over identity politics, and 8 months after sweeping the Lok Sabha polls the winners have been rebuked”.
Later, he posted an Urdu couplet, according to PTI, saying, that one is taking pride in someone else’s victory, even in the party’s defeat.
Other senior leaders seemed to agree.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh on Wednesday said those spreading “religious hatred” have been wiped out.
“Amit Shahji had asked people to press the voting button with such force that the current is felt in Shaheen Bagh. Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter has given a good statement by saying that the button was pressed (by voters) in such a way that it (BJP) got electrocuted,” he was quoted as saying by PTI.
About the Congress’s performance in Delhi, he only said the votes got shifted to AAP as people backed the person and the party which they believed could defeat the BJP.
Missing amidst all of this second-hand gloating? Any indication of how the Congress plans to clean up its own house. Also that former president Rahul Gandhi has mostly been missing in action after the Lok Sabha debacle.
Congress leaders, agree, however that something needs to be done about the crisis at the top.
While expressing concern over the party’s debacle in Delhi elections, M. Veerappa Moily said that the Congress could not perform because its “votebanks have been transferred to AAP as they thought only he (AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal) can defeat the BJP.”
“That’s how the people have come to that conclusion... no use in supporting Congress party; otherwise it will benefit BJP,” the former Karnataka Chief Minister told PTI.
He, however, said that the time to act is now and called for a “surgical action” to revive the party.
Party leader Kapil Sibal also said the party does not have a leader to project and that needs to be resolved at the earliest.
How did BJP leaders react?
The BJP managed to get eight out of 70 seats, marginally improving its tally, and its vote share increased from 32.19% in 2015 to 38.5% this year.
Even as Congress leaders were floundering to pin the blame on someone while also celebrating the BJP’s defeat, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari took responsibility for the party’s performance.
Tiwari on Wednesday offered to quit from his post, but sources told NDTV that he was told by the leadership that there was no need to do so. He had tweeted after the exit polls that the party would form the government by winning 48 seats, and asked everyone to save his tweet.
When asked about this after the results were declared, he said, “I am state president, so I take the responsibility for this defeat. My estimate based on some factors has proved wrong but what possibly could you do with my tweet, just keep it saved.”
Tiwari also pointed out that the BJP’s vote percentage has increased. “Delhi did not reject us and the increase (in vote share) is a good sign for us,” he was quoted as saying by PTI.
BJP national spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain also had the same view. “BJP is the only party which has gained and our seat tally increased while even the number of AAP seats has gone down. Congress shifted its vote to the AAP, yet we gave a good fight,” Hussain said.
(With PTI inputs)