New Delhi: After a humiliating defeat in four state elections on Sunday, Rahul Gandhi, who led the Congress party's campaign, told reporters, "The people have sent us a clear message. We have heard it... not just in our minds but in our hearts."
The BJP stacked up super-wins in Rajasthan Madhya Pradesh and finished on top in Delhi. In Chhattisgarh, the party surged ahead of the Congress in the final stages of counting, marking a hat-trick for chief minister Raman Singh. (Read)
Vowing a transformation of the Congress before the national elections, due by May, Mr Gandhi acknowledged that Arvind Kejriwal and his new Aam Aadmi Party, which amassed enormous public support to place second in Delhi. "The Aam Aadmi Party involved a lot of non-traditional people and we will learn from that...and will better it in a way you cannot imagine," Mr Gandhi said.
The shock of Sunday's colossal losses - the Congress was emphatically evicted from power in Rajasthan and Delhi - comes only months before the country votes for its next government.
Mr Gandhi, who is 43, has not been declared the Congress party's candidate for prime minister, but he was its star campaigner.
His mother, Sonia Gandhi, who is party president, refuted suggestions that by refusing to reveal its choice for PM, the Congress risks being perceived as leaderless by voters. "People need not worry. At the opportune time, the name of our PM candidate will be announced," she said, after congratulating her party's opponents for their performance.
Congress leaders who appeared in TV studios on Sunday were heavy-handed in their attempt to shield Mr Gandhi from being held responsible for the party's debacle. They also insisted that the state elections are not an augury of the national polls.
The BJP, which has selected Narendra Modi as its choice for prime minister, had earlier said that the state elections could not be seen as a referendum of his popularity. But leaders like Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje Scindia, who won Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, credited him as "a huge factor" in their victory. (Read)