BJP takes Goa – Landslide victory for Cong in Manipur – Dead heat in Uttarakhand – Tough times for UPA ahead – Mulayam routs Maya, setback for Rahul in UP
Anita Katyal, Our Political Correspondent
New Delhi, March 6. Widely perceived as a litmus test for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the results of the five Assembly polls declared today served as a serious warning for the Congress in general and its heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi in particular about the party’s capability to lead the country once again as the morale of cadres sank to a record low.
More immediately, the party’s dismal performance in these elections will spell further trouble for the already beleaguered Congress-led UPA government which will have to contend with a more aggressive Opposition as it heads into a crucial budget session of Parliament. The results were nothing short of a nightmare for the Congress. It faced a humiliating defeat in Punjab where the ruling Akali Dal-BJP government set a record by bucking the anti-incumbency trend to emerge victorious for a second consecutive term. While the party drew some solace from its victories in distant Manipur and Uttarakhand (a wafer-thin margin), it was mauled badly in Goa by the BJP-MGP combine.
However, the UP results were clearly the big story of the day. The Samajwadi Party won a landslide victory and will form the next government without any outside support. While the projection of Mulayum Singh Yadav’s son Akhilsh Singh Yadav as the party’s new face proved to be a real winner, the SP’s ride to power was also helped as it was seen as the strongest party capable of dislodging the Mayawati government.
The results were a personal blow for AICC general secretary and Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi who had taken complete charge of the elections in the state to revive the fortunes of the grand old party. As it happened, Rahul’s intensive and aggressive campaign failed to deliver as the Congress was unable to add substantially to its tally of 22 seats.
While Digvijay Singh, AICC general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, and Rita Bahuguna Joshi, UP Congress chief, were quick to insulate Rahul from criticism, the man who led from the front did not shy away from taking the blame for party’s poor performance. “I led the campaign, I led from the front and so it is my responsibility. We fought collectively, we fought well but the results have not been so good,” he told reporters outside Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence this evening.
Gracious in defeat, Rahul also conceded that the party’s organisation was not in very good health. “Organisationally, we are not where we should be in UP…I think it will be a very good lesson for me because I think it will make me think about things in a detailed way,” he said, adding that the fundamentals of the Congress in UP are weak and need to be corrected.
Although the party is expected to introspect the election results at a later date, party insiders maintained that the state Congress unit’s over-confidence and complacency had cost them dearly in Punjab. “Everybody assumed they were winning,” remarked a senior AICC functionary. Faulty distribution of tickets and the presence of a large number of rebels were the other factors, which proved to be the party’s undoing, he said.
The Congress campaign in UP got off to a flying start with Rahul focusing on the poor governance record of the Mayawati government but got derailed after the third phase when senior leaders Salman Khurshid and Beni Prasad Verma raised the pitch on the Muslim quota issue.
References to Hindu terror in a state where nobody has been charged in any such case, the possibility of President’s rule and the Batla House encounter issue also contributed in changing the course of the UP election.