Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday said it was premature to write off the Congress after its defeat in the Lok Sabha elections, PTI reported. Tharoor also said he was ready to be the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha if the post is offered to him.

When asked if the Congress still remains a credible alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Thiruvananthapuram MP told PTI: “It’s far too premature to write any obituary for the party as Kerala and Punjab have shown, we are very much alive and kicking.”

The Congress won just 52 of the 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, but secured most seats in Kerala and Punjab. “I strongly believe that we have no time to sit and lick our wounds and must instead pick up again immediately and effectively not least because we have several state elections coming up, some of which are four or five months away,” Tharoor said. Assembly elections will be held in Jharkhand, Haryana and Maharashtra later this year.

Tharoor, who was elected to the Lower House for a third consecutive term, said he would certainly take up the role of Congress leader in the Lok Sabha if it is offered to him, “but that is not for me to determine”. “It is clear, though, that since so many of our stalwarts have lost these elections, those of us who remain will have to pull our weight and take on extra responsibility,” he said. “I am ready for that.”

On Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav’s statement that the “Congress must die”, Tharoor said what the Congress offers is “fundamentally indispensable to the future of the country”.

‘Rahul Gandhi is best person to lead party’

Tharoor said attempts in the media to pin the Congress party’s electoral defeat on party chief Rahul Gandhi was unfair. “While Rahulji has bravely taken full responsibility for the defeat, we all are responsible for what went wrong and we all have a responsibility to ensure the party’s revival,” he said.

Tharoor claimed Gandhi will easily beat any other candidate by a landslide if the Congress decides to hold a free and fair election for the position of party president. “ my mind, he still undoubtedly remains the best person to help rally the party out of the predicament it finds itself in and help us collectively move forward,” he said.

When asked if someone from outside the Gandhi family could lead the party, Tharoor said others can rise to prominent positions in the Congress. “Still, I have no doubt the Gandhi-Nehru family will continue to command great clout and respect within the party, just on the basis of the tremendous contributions they have made in shaping and guiding the party since Independence,” he said.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily said the Congress’ dismal performance in the elections was a “passing phase”. “One or two elections cannot determine the future of the Congress,” the party leader told PTI.

Moily said Gandhi was an inspiration for the party and it was not appropriate for him to quit as the Congress chief. “Just because Modi won...that is not a criteria to leave the presidentship. After all, ups and downs are common for the Congress party. We have seen them many a time...Apart from legacy...he [Gandhi] is the most competent person to lead the party.”