Perhaps in one of their bleakest political moments, the Gandhis – Congress president Rahul Gandhi, his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi – held a meeting on Thursday to discuss the party’s debacle, the second in a row after 2014.
As votes were counted for the national election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was set for a landslide victory and a return with an even bigger mandate than 2014 – around 350 of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha. The Congress and its allies were ahead in just 88 seats.
The Congress struggled to even touch three figures while its chief Rahul Gandhi fought a tough battle in Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, a Gandhi family stronghold and one of the party’s surest seats till now.
Sources say the Gandhis met for over half an hour. Sources say the Congress had not estimated such a poor performance and now fears its state governments in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan would be targeted.
Many senior Congress leaders, say sources, are questioning Rahul Gandhi’s leadership and his continuing as party president, sources say. Mr Gandhi’s aggressive “Chowkidar Chor Hai” campaign flopped miserably, leaders said, or even, actually backfired. Rahul Gandhi used the phrase at all his rallies as he targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale jet deal, accusing him of crony capitalism.
Other opposition leaders like Omar Abdullah have also questioned whether “Chowkidar chor hai” was the right slogan and if it was right to focus on Rafale.
Some Congress leaders called it a clear mandate against vote bank politics like minority appeasement and caste politics. They also noted that the Congress did not have a leader to project against PM Modi.
Some allies are believed to be questioning whether the Congress has become a liability for them and whether the party needs to reinvent itself.
In the last election, the party had won 44 seats – its lowest tally ever – at a time Sonia Gandhi was chief and Rahul Gandhi, as vice president, led the campaign. They offered to resign their posts at the Working Committee meeting that took place then.
This time, the party is likely to show a marginal improvement but hardly enough to offset its huge loss in the big picture.
The Congress headquarters in the capital is practically deserted. Several leaders left after the results started trickling in.
Election Results for Lok Sabha Election 2019 will be out on May 23. Get the latest election news and live updates on ndtv.com/elections. Catch all the action on NDTV Live. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for news updates from each of the 543 parliamentary seats for the election 2019