Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid on Wednesday said he would not leave the party despite “pain and concern” about its current situation. He also took a dig at leaders who have deserted the Congress, Hindustan Times reported.

The latest comments came a day after he said the party’s biggest problem was that its former President Rahul Gandhi had walked away after the massive defeat in the Lok Sabha elections.

“I have very deep pain and concern about where we are today as a party,” Khurshid told ANI. “No matter what happens we won’t leave the party, we aren’t like those who got everything from the party and when the chips were down, things were difficult they left the party and walked away.”

The former Union minister said the party needs to figure out why it is in such a vulnerable position. “We need to know why we are in the state in which we are,” he added. “Unfortunately despite our earnest pleading Rahul Gandhi decided to step down and resign from the president post. We wanted him to continue but it was his decision and we respect it.”

Khurshid said it was the only time in history that a major defeat did not cause the party to lose confidence in its leader. “If he [Gandhi] had stayed and was around, we would have understood better the causes of our defeat and be better prepared to fight the battles in coming times,” the Congress leader added.

Later in the day, Khurshid defended his comments, the Hindustan Times reported. “The idea that the party’s prospects in the election-going states has dimmed with Rahul Gandhi away from action is not entirely untrue,” he told the newspaper. “I’m very sorry for people who do not understand what I said. If I have said anything wrong, just point out to me: If it is wrong, I will correct it.”

Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said party leaders should avoid making such comments and focus on exposing the follies of the Bharatiya Janata Party governments in Maharashtra and Haryana, PTI reported.

“Salman Khurshid has given you an answer,” Khera told reporters in New Delhi. “You should seek an answer from him only. As far as I am concerned, as far as the Congress party is concerned, we are working for the Haryana and Maharashtra elections, working together, working with every possible strength that we can derive from everywhere.”

Rahul Gandhi resigned as Congress president on July 3, more than a month after the Lok Sabha election results were announced. His mother Sonia Gandhi took over as interim party president on August 10.

Since the elections, many leaders have left the party or have come out in the public against senior leaders. Former Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar resigned last week and alleged that those who had worked against the party’s interests in the last five years were given preference in ticket distribution.

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

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