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Congress leaders disappointed as AK Antony committee gives clean chit to Gandhis, provides no revival plan

Monday, 18 August 2014 - 5:57am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Senior Congress leaders, who deposed before the high powered committee headed by former defence minister AK Antony to probe the party's worst-ever debacle in the Lok Sabha polls, are dejected by its conclusions.

The report submitted to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday has absolved the party's top leadership, including vice-president Rahul Gandhi, of any blame. The report is also bereft of any revival plan.

Rahul, who was the face of the party's campaign, has been at the receiving end of criticism ever since the electoral defeat. While these leaders say they had told the committee frankly behind closed-doors that Rahul's experiments of radical reforms and his non-political coterie were responsible for the debacle, the report had blamed the UPA government, its ministers, the anti-incumbency factor and BJP's high voltage campaign.

"We understand that the anti-incumbency factor and the fact that people were fed up to see our faces daily played a part, but the defeat of this magnitude cannot be attributed to these factors alone," a party functionary, requesting anonymity, told dna.

While the functioning of the UPA government did cost the party its mandate, there should have been a word on who put the campaign in place. The leaders point out that even at its previous worst defeat in 1977, the party had polled 34.50 per cent votes and got 153 seats. In 1999, when it had the lowest tally of 114 seats till that time, it still polled 28.30 per cent votes. But now the vote share has decreased to a record little 20 per cent and in terms of seats the party has mere 44 in Lok Sabha.

While no leader is willing to come on record, there is a view that Antony has deliberately absolved Sonia Gandhi and Rahul. "Nobody in the party would have demanded their resignations. Without them, Congress cannot exist. But fixing responsibility and pointing towards real causes of defeat would have added credibility and laid a road map for recovery," said another office bearer.

They, however, agree on one point with Antony that excessive focus to consolidate minorities in favour of the party did boomerang on it. But a senior minority leader of the party, who had also deposed before the committee, told dna that they were never consulted when Sonia Gandhi publicly decided to meet Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid. "Whose idea was it that such a politically damaging exercise should be undertaken?" he asked. The leader also demanded that if Gandhis themselves did not favour this meeting, then the one who had arranged and advised such a meeting should be punished.

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