Congress leader and former Union minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday said his party’s defeat in the recently concluded Delhi Assembly elections was an “unmitigated disaster like coronavirus”.

The Congress repeated its abysmal performance from the 2015 elections this time as it again failed to win a seat and saw its vote share shrink below 5%. At least 63 Congress candidates lost their deposits.

“Congress leaders have to reinvent themselves,” Ramesh told PTI. “Congress party has to reinvent itself if it has to be relevant. Otherwise, we are staring at irrelevance. Our arrogance has to go, even after six years out of power sometimes, some of us behave as if we are still ministers.” Ramesh added that his party’s substance and style of leadership had to change.

Ramesh said the Assembly election results were a rejection of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s politics. The former minister claimed the BJP had used the anti-Citizenship Act protests in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh neighbourhood to polarise voters. “I don’t understand what Shaheen Bagh people are protesting about,” he said. “Are they worried that their citizenship is going to be taken away from them? That is a legitimate fear. Then they should agitate against NPR and NRC. Why are they only agitating against CAA?”

The former Union minister said if the demonstration at Shaheen Bagh go on, it will suit the BJP’s interests. It “served the communal Muslim interests” as well, he added.

The Congress leader’s remarks came a day after his party colleague M Veerappa Moily said the party should focus on completely rejuvenating itself, and that a few leaders cannot be blamed for the poll drubbing. Moily added that every Congress leader would have to be accountable for its performance.

Tension between Congress leaders have cropped up following the election results. Delhi Mahila Congress chief and party spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee on Wednesday criticised the former Union minister P Chidambaram for celebrating AAP’s massive win. She said the Congress should instead be worried about its own defeat.

The central leader in charge of the Delhi unit, PC Chacko, claimed the Congress’ downfall began “in 2013 when Sheilaji [Dikshit] was the chief minister”. His statement was dismissed by former Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora, who hailed Dikshit as a “remarkable politician and administrator”.