The Congress denied today that Rahul Gandhi had offered to resign as its top leaders met for a post-mortem of its national election debacle which, many say, exposes an existential crisis for the grand old party.
The Congress Working Committee (CWC), which includes Rahul Gandhi, his mother Sonia Gandhi, sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and former prime minister Manmohan Singh, is discussing the party's 52-seat disaster in the just-ended election in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP and its allies won a spectacular mandate of over 350 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, NDTV reports.
Rahul Gandhi's nationwide campaign crafted around his "Chowkidar Chor Hai" barb for PM Modi failed to capture the public imagination or even translate into votes. The Congress was a washout in 17 states and union territories and couldn't do any better even in the three heartland states it won just in December. The party won two seats in Chhattisgarh, one in Madhya Pradesh and none in Rajasthan.
Even Priyanka Gandhi's launch into the Uttar Pradesh battle couldn't salvage the Congress, which has always seen the younger Gandhi sibling as its force multiplier, its ultimate weapon. Despite her aggressive campaign in UP and her direct attacks on the PM, the Congress ended up with only one seat - Sonia Gandhi's Raebareli - of the state's 80 constituencies. The Prime Minister won from his seat Varanasi by a margin of over 4.7 lakh votes.
Rahul Gandhi, who lost even his traditional Amethi in Uttar Pradesh to the BJP's Smriti Irani - the win in Kerala's Wayanad was small consolation - had told reporters on Thursday that he accepted "100 per cent" responsibility for the debacle. Asked whether he would resign, the Congress chief said: "Let that be between me and the Working Committee."
In 2014, then Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi - who led the campaign as party vice president - had both offered to quit after the party plunged to a historic low of 44 seats. But the Congress, which has always been devoted to the Nehru-Gandhi family, rejected the offer and assumed "collective responsibility".
Three state chiefs of the party have already sent their resignations, which means additional pressure on their boss to take the onus.
In a tweet on Thursday, Raj Babbar had owned responsibility for the Congress's disaster in Uttar Pradesh. "The results are depressing for the Uttar Pradesh Congress. I find myself guilty of not discharging my responsibility in a proper manner," he had tweeted.