Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said that the results of the recently-held Bihar Assembly elections and bye-polls in several states show that the party either has no organisational presence left on the ground or has weakened considerably, reported Dainik Bhaskar on Wednesday.

“The ground was fertile for Rashtriya Janata Dal-Congress in Bihar,” he said in an interview to the Hindi daily. “There should be a comprehensive review of why we lost even after being so close to winning.” The Congress leader said that it should be remembered that the party won the elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand a while ago.

Chidambaram said the opposition alliance can get as many votes as the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition but to beat them, “we have to strengthen our organisation at the ground level”. He added that small parties such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen have proven that they can win if they have a strong organisational presence on the ground.

When asked if he agreed that the Congress was the weak link in the Grand Alliance in Bihar, the former finance minister said that the party fought more seats than its organisation’s strength. “The Congress was given 25 seats where the BJP or its allies had been winning for 20 years,” he said. “The Congress should have refused to contest from these seats. The party should have fielded only 45 candidates.” He said that the party now has to see the results of upcoming elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and West Bengal.

The opposition’s alliance in Bihar comprising the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Congress and Left parties, had won 110 seats in the 243-member Assembly. The RJD had emerged as the single-largest party with 75 seats but the Congress could only win 19 seats from the 70 it had contested. On the other hand, the Left parties had put up an impressive performance with 16 wins, contesting from just 29 seats.

The Congress also performed poorly in the bye-elections in 11 states, held at the same time as the Bihar Assembly polls. The BJP or its allies had won 41 out of 59 seats, according to The Times of India. The Congress won nine seats in Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP secured 19 seats. The Congress also secured three more seats in bye-polls in other states.

On the allegations of election fraud during the Bihar polls, Chidambaram said that it is a norm worldwide to recount votes when the victory margin is low, adding that the Election Commission could have done the same.

On a question about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi calling for a non-Gandhi member to lead the All India Congress Committee, Chidambaram said that he does not know who will lead and that anyone can contest the polls. He added that there always are conflicts within a party, referring to a letter written by 23 Congress leaders to the high command. “This is not abnormal,” he added.

Recently, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal had blamed the party leadership for not recognising the matters ailing the party, despite knowing about them. Sibal was also one of the 23 leaders who had written a letter to party chief Sonia Gandhi earlier this year.

During the interview, Chidambaram clarified that the Congress was not formally a part of the Gupkar Alliance but was only contesting the District Development Council elections to expose the “anti-people face” of the BJP. “The home minister [Amit Shah] is bypassing his responsibilities and making misleading comments,” he said. Chidambaram was referring to Shah’s comments that the Congress and People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration wanted to take Jammu and Kashmir back to the era of terror and turmoil.

“The Gupkar Gang is going global!” Shah had tweeted. “They want foreign forces to intervene in Jammu and Kashmir. The Gupkar Gang also insults India’s Tricolour. Do Sonia Ji and Rahul Ji support such moves of the Gupkar Gang?”