As Congress President Sonia Gandhi watched the election results with Priyanka and Rahul at his 12, Tughlaq Lane residence this morning, the message they heard by the afternoon was unmistakable: a sweeping anti-Congress verdict.
It pushed the party to fourth place in Uttar Pradesh, wrested away Goa, gave Punjab back to the Akali Dal — the first time a state government there has bucked incumbency in over 40 years — and in Uttarakhand, the Congress was flying down Independents to New Delhi in a desperate bid to unseat the faction-ridden, discredited BJP government.
So a win in Manipur was of little comfort to the Congress as it braced itself for questions on the effectiveness of their star, Rahul Gandhi, whose aggressive me-myself-and-I campaign in UP spectacularly failed to convince voters itching to throw out the Mayawati government.
If inflation, a string of corruption scandals and a UPA policy drift weakened the Congress’s case across all states, there were also few takers for the party’s tired NREGA rhetoric. Even the Muslims in UP weren’t impressed with the party’s announcements of reservation and claims of tears being shed over the Batla House encounter. As it faces the challenge to take on Narendra Modi in Gujarat later this year, the party will need to do a lot of introspection.
This was underlined by Rahul himself. Speaking outside 10, Janpath once the trends firmed up, he said: “First of all, let me congratulate Mulayam Singhji and Akhilesh. In a democracy, winning and losing happens. In UP, I led the campaign and I led from the front and so it is my responsibility. We fought collectvely, we fought well but results have not been good. This is one of my defeats and I take it in my stride I think it is a very good lesson for me. I think it will make me think in detailed ways which I like to do.”