New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi, re-elected chairperson of Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) yesterday, asked party leaders not to indulge in “public acrimony” over the party’s worst Lok Sabha results for which appropriate lessons need to be learnt.
Addressing a meeting of CPP, she acknowledged “there was widespread anger against us which we failed to adequately gauge” and asked party MPs to be “vigilant watchdogs” in their role in the opposition.
Party leaders said Gandhi will soon decide the names of leaders of opposition in the two houses of parliament.
Gandhi’s remarks about the need for the partymen to stop bickering through media comes against the backdrop of a blame game in the party over its worst electoral defeat — with its tally reduced to only 44 seats while it did not win a single seat in some states - with some leaders taking potshots at “Team Rahul Gandhi”.
Her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi led the Congress campaign in the election. In her speech, Sonia Gandhi said she was asked by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to take all steps necessary to revamp the organisation at all levels.
“Your inputs, your experience and your assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, rather than public acrimony, will be critical to the exercise,” she said.
In an apparent message to party parliamentarians, including her own son who was also present at the meet, Sonia Gandhi said that being in the opposition means regular attendance, more hours inside the house and more study of subjects.
“It means asking more questions, raising more issues, initiating more debates, always being the vigilant watchdog and defending principles of the Congress.”
At the CPP meeting, Sonia Gandhi’s name was proposed by party leader Mallikarjun Kharge and seconded by other leaders including Mohsina Kidwai.
Becoming Congress president in 1998, she has been successively heading the parliamentary party.
Outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh briefly spoke at the meeting.
Sonia Gandhi congratulated the newly-elected Lok Sabha members and said that although victorious, she was pained about the larger defeat of the party.
“We have to individually and collectively draw appropriate lessons from this unprecedented setback,” she said.
She noted the Congress secured 10.69 crore votes compared to 17.16 crore received by the Bharatiya Janata Party but though getting almost 62 percent votes compared to that of the BJP, its tally was less than 15 percent. The BJP won 282 seats.
Hitting out at the BJP and some other parties, she said that in the outgoing parliament, they opposed some legislations due to “cussedness and outright political opportunism”.
She said the Congress may have a small strength in the Lok Sabha but it was the largest party in the Rajya Sabha and the CPP can function as a formidable opposition.
A resolution adopted at the meeting said the party will demonstrate its resilience in no uncertain terms. It expressed its gratitude to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi “for their indefatigable campaigns across the country”.
“Electoral setbacks cannot obscure their contributions and the CPP resolves to regroup, rebuild and revive under their leadership and regain support of people.” It also recalled “yeoman’s services” rendered by Manmohan Singh.
The party said it will hold the BJP-led NDA government accountable to its pledges and not allow dilution of policies and legislations of UPA government.
Party sources said that names of senior leaders A KAntony and Ghulam Nabi Azad were doing the round in party circles as leader of the house in Rajya Sabha. In Lok Sabha, the name of senior leader Kamal Nath is doing the rounds though many party leaders were keen on Sonia Gandhi herself or by Rahul Gandhi. There is uncertainty over the party getting the post in Lok Sabha as its tally does not constitute one tenth of the house’s strength.