Lucknow, April 6 (IANS) Did loud mouth central ministers script the Congress debacle in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls?
While party leaders officially refuse to say much, insiders admit the party leadership was flooded with complaints against the minister troika of Salman Khursheed, Beni Prasad Verma and Shree Prakash Jaiswal.
"The writing is on the wall and it would be no surprise that some action is taken against these leaders who by their unwarranted and hasty statements caused considerable damage to the party," a senior leader told IANS.
Several party candidates who lost at the hustings and who met Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi Thursday and Friday apprised the Gandhi scion how the party's "good campaign" was punctured midway.
This, they said, happened after the third phase of the staggered Uttar Pradesh ballot after Jaiswal and Verma started belting out "political absurdities".
"When you have strong anti-incumbency against the government of Mayawati and a senior leader, a minister (Beni Prasad Verma) suggests that Mayawati was a better option for post-poll alliance, what else do you expect but this dismal performance?" fumed a party candidate from Kanpur.
Party candidates were also miffed with statements of Jaiswal and Salman Khursheed in the run up to the polls, which they said, hurt the party prospects immensely.
Coal Minister and third-time MP from Kanpur, Jaiswal's "either the Congress or President's rule" statement was specifically pointed out by party leaders.
Nawab Kazim Ali, the scion of the Rampur royal family, told the party leadership in no ambiguous terms that the statements of some central leaders were not only "unbecoming of their stature but also ones which undid the party's hard work".
Khursheed's overzealous statement of sub-quota for Muslims, many of them felt, led to a communal polarization which ultimately helped the Samajwadi Party.
While Rahul Gandhi spoke little and was as usual the "patient listener", a source said that a "terse message was on its way" to the union ministers.
Congress leaders from UP have been told that there would be no buffer in between and that the party leadership would concentrate more on local leadership than the "high flying, jet setting ministers from Delhi".
Rahul Gandhi's exercise follows the humiliating defeat the Congress suffered in Uttar Pradesh, finish at the bottom of what was supposed to be a four-way fight.
While the Samajwadi Party won a majority of the state's 403 seats, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) finished as the main opposition. The Congress came behind the BJP.
The Congress won only 28 seats, just a few more than what it bagged five years ago, despite intense campaigning by Rahul Gandhi.
So dismal was the Congress show that its candidates lost even in the Lok Sabha constituencies of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi - Rae Bareli and Amethi.
Curiously, while the Congress vote share went up marginally from 8.63 percent in 2007 to 11.6 this time, the BJP's vote share slid -- as did its seat tally, from 51 in 2007 to 47 now.
A dejected Rahul Gandhi later took responsibility for the defeat but vowed to keep fighting to revive the Congress in the sprawling and country's most populous state.
The Congress has been out of power since 1989 in Uttar Pradesh.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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