Kochi: Former Kerala minister TH Mustafa, who had demanded Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi's ouster for leading their party to its worst-ever performance, and handing over the reins of the party to his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, has been suspended by the state Congress Committee.
Mr Mustafa, who is also a member of the All India Congress Committee, or the AICC, triggered outrage within the party by describing Mr Gandhi as a "joker". Party spokesman Rashid Alvi had condemned the remarks, insisting that they were made "out of frustration," and cautioned the media against showing such statements. "This is very sad. I condemn this," he said earlier today.
Mr Mustafa, while speaking to reporters in Kochi yesterday, blamed Mr Gandhi for the Congress' debacle in the Lok Sabha polls. "He should resign from the party. He should not continue. If he doesn't resign voluntarily, he should be sacked. His crazy policies and joker-like behavior, and his association with non-Congress advisers were the primary reasons why the Congress suffered very badly in the elections.
The Congress was routed in the Lok Sabha elections, and was reduced to a mere 44 seats. Narendra Modi's BJP won a majority on its own, and secured 336 seats in partnership with its allies. The total strength of the House is 543.
As the Congress introspects, Mr Mustafa put the onus on Priyanka for prepping the party's revival roadmap. "She should be appointed Congress president. She is received very warmly by the people. Only she can revive the party," he argued.
But senior Congress leader and former union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar disagreed. "I do not agree with what a senior Kerala leader said about Rahul," he said in Nagpur today. On the demand to make Ms Vadra party president, he said, "I also say Priyanka should come. But let her decide. I was the one who kept demanding about Sonia's entry. Once she entered, the first election results were not as expected. But we recovered in the next one. So let's not evaluate on just one election."
Mrs Gandhi became the Congress president after her party tasted defeat in the 1998 general election. The party lost to the BJP again in 1999, but recovered ground to post a spectacular victory five years later.