Senior Congress leaders on Saturday came to the defence of Manmohan Singh after some young members of the party reportedly challenged Singh’s legacy as prime minister and blamed him for their defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

At a meeting called by party president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday, the younger dispensation of the Congress demanded that those who were part of the last United Progressive Alliance government should take the blame for the Congress’ electoral downfall, NDTV reported. Some of them also demanded that Rahul Gandhi be re-appointed as the party chief.

The seniors, on the other hand, called for more introspection and debate within the party. They reportedly underscored the need to question why the Congress has failed to dent support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi despite his government’s perceived mishandling of issues such as the economic slowdown, the coronavirus crisis and the standoff with China.

A total of 34 Rajya Sabha MPs had attended the virtual meeting, which was called to deliberate and formulate strategy over current political issues, according to India Today.

However, lawmakers Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tewari, Anand Sharma and former Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora said the criticism against Singh was part of a “motivated and malicious narrative”. They said that “some of the ill-informed members” were creating a divide within the party. All of them have been ministers in Singh’s Cabinet at some point.

“BJP was out of power for 10 years [from] 2004-]14,” Tewari tweeted on Saturday. “Not once did they ever blame [former prime minister Atal Bihari] Vajpayee or his government for their then predicaments. In the Congress unfortunately some ill-informed’s would rather take swipes at Manmohan Singh led UPA govt than fight the NDA/BJP.”

In a separate tweet posted on Friday, Tewari added that while it is valid to ask if the UPA caused the decline in the Congress’ fortunes, it was equally important to determine if the UPA was sabotaged from within. The Union minister also pointed out that no charge against the Congress-led UPA has “stood the test of law” even after six years of its relinquishing office.

Deora also expressed his disappointment. “When demitting office in 2014, Dr Manmohan Singh said, ‘history will be kinder to me’,” he tweeted. “Could he have ever imagined that some from his own party would dismiss his years of service to the nation and seek to destroy his legacy – that, too, in his presence?”

Tharoor supported both of them and said the UPA’s transformative ten years were “distorted and traduced” by a “motivated and malicious narrative”. “There’s plenty to learn from our defeats and much to be done to revive the Congress,” he added. “But not by playing into the hands of our ideological enemies.”

Sharma posted a series of tweets detailing the achievements of the Congress-led UPA government. He argued the UPA had fallen “victim of a grand political conspiracy and malicious disinformation campaign of the BJP”.

“Congress as a democratic party is always open to a debate on its achievements and failures,” Sharma added. “Honest introspection and analysis are always helpful and gives strength to move forward.”

Meanwhile, party leader Rajeev Satav on Saturday said the “malicious attempt” to draw Singh into the “introspection debate” was reprehensible. Satav, who was also present at the meeting, said he never sought to question the former prime minister’s leadership.

“To say my observations cast a shadow over Singh’’s leadership of UPA II is a lie, a total misrepresentation of facts,” he tweeted. “I hold Dr Singh in high esteem. He is above reproach.”