Congress President Rahul Gandhi has accused former Union minister P Chidambaram, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot of placing their sons above the party during the Lok Sabha polls, PTI reported on Sunday. Gandhi reportedly made the remark during the Congress Working Committee meeting in New Delhi on Saturday.
P Chidambaram’s son Karti Chidamabaram and Kamal Nath’s son Nakul Nath were elected from constituencies in Tamil Nadu and Bhopal. However, Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav Gehlot lost the polls. The Congress ended up winning just 52 seats nationwide, a mere eight seats more than its tally in 2014.
“Chidambaram threatened to resign if a ticket was denied to his son,” Gandhi reportedly said at the meeting. “Nath said how could he be CM if his son was not fielded.” The Congress chief also accused Ashok Gehlot of spending a week campaigning in Jodhpur for his son, neglecting the rest of the state.
The Congress drew a blank in Rajasthan’s 25 seats and won just one seat out of 29 in Madhya Pradesh despite being in power in both states.
At the meeting, the Congress Working Committee rejected Gandhi’s offer to resign as party chief. Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi also urged her brother not to step down, saying it would be like “falling into BJP’s trap”, unidentified party leaders told PTI. However, Rahul Gandhi clarified that he does not want any other member of his family to succeed him as the Congress chief.
Gandhi also blamed Congress leaders for not supporting him in his campaign to show that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was guilty of corruption in the Rafale deal. Priyanka Gandhi reportedly backed her brother. “All those responsible for the party’s defeat are sitting in this room,” she said. “Where were you when my brother was fighting all by himself and alone? No one supported Congress president in taking forward the narrative of Rafale and ‘chowkidar chor hai’.”
When Rahul Gandhi asked how many leaders present at the meeting had backed his corruption narrative against Modi, very few raised their hands, Congress Working Committee sources told PTI.
Former Union minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal told The Indian Express that there would be “no discipline left in the party” if Rahul Gandhi quit. Another former minister, Salman Khurshid, also said Rahul Gandhi should “certainly continue” as the party chief.
According to a Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi said the Bharatiya Janata Party has the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to build its cadre while he has to build a party on his own to take on the saffron party. The Congress chief left the meeting abruptly, said unidentified leaders.
Dissent in the Rajasthan Congress
Meanwhile, two ministers in the Rajasthan Congress backed Rahul Gandhi on Sunday and lashed out at Gehlot, The Indian Express reported. Cooperatives Minister Udaylal Anjana told the newspaper that the chief minister would have been able to campaign more in other constituencies had he been free. Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Minister Ramesh Chand Meena said the party’s defeat “should not be taken lightly”.
“What the Congress president has said in absolutely right,” Meena said. “There should be an introspection on what Rahul ji has said. There should deliberation and analysis. The party should introspect on the reasons for such a massive defeat.” He added that “accountability should be fixed” for the defeat.
There is also speculation that state Agriculture Minister Lalchand Kataria might quit the post following the Congress’s debacle, PTI reported. The minister has reportedly issued a press release announcing his resignation. However, the chief minister’s office refused to confirm the news.
The Congress campaign chiefs of Karnataka and of Amethi constituency and the party presidents in Odisha and Uttar Pradesh have already quit their posts following the heavy election defeat. The Congress won one seat in Karnataka, while in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh Rahul Gandhi lost to the BJP’s Smriti Irani.