Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid on Monday said the departure of Rahul Gandhi has left a vacuum in the party, AP reported. Weeks ahead of the Assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra on October 21, Khurshid said Congress may not be able to win the elections or ensure its own future.

“We haven’t really got together to analyse why we got defeated [in the Lok Sabha elections],” Khurshid said in an interview. “Our biggest problem is our leader has walked away. It has kind of left a vacuum. Sonia Gandhi stepped in, but there is more than an indication that she is treating herself as a stop-gap arrangement. I wish it wasn’t so.”

Rahul Gandhi resigned as the Congress president on July 3 after the party’s major setback in the Lok Sabha elections, in which it secured only 52 out of 542 Parliamentary seats. His mother Sonia Gandhi took over the Congress’ reins from him and became interim Congress president on August 10.

Khurshid also said that the Congress was facing attrition because it took too long to come to terms with its defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.

Since the poll debacle, many leaders have left the party or have come out in the public against Congress veterans. Former Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar resigned last week and alleged that those who worked against the party’s interests in the last five years have been given preference over those who worked hard for it.

Similar charges were also levelled by Maharashtra Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam, former Jharkhand Congress chief Ajay Kumar, who joined the Aam Admi Party last month, and cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who resigned as a minister after a tussle with the Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in July.

However, Congress has played down the differences and asked leaders not to make up conspiracy theories. “It would be appropriate if he does not kite fly these conspiracy theories that are unimaginative,” party leader Manish Tewari had said about Nirupam on Friday.

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