New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi is travelling to Gujarat on Saturday to review and analyse his party's performance in the assembly elections. But at the Congress Working Committee yesterday, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already told him precisely what he thinks went wrong.
The Congress lost the elections because it wasn't able to connect with the urban voters, Dr Singh said at the meeting of the party's highest policy-making body. The former PM had also campaigned in Gujarat's Surat and elsewhere to back up Mr Gandhi's narrative, blaming the BJP for the twin blows to small businesses: the notes ban and a faulty tax reform.
Dr Singh cited the example of 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the Congress was able to do well in urban areas and stressed that the party must introspect why it hasn't been able to do well and how it should reconnect with the urban voters.
In 2009, the Congress had won about 34 of the 57 parliamentary seats in big metros and a majority of the 144 Lok Sabha seats in the country's smaller cities and towns. This was an improvement over the Congress performance in 2004 Lok Sabha elections.
But in Gujarat assembly elections, the Congress wasn't clearly been able to convince the urban voters to switch sides.
The BJP, which today decided to repeat Vijay Rupani as Chief Minister and Nitin Patel as his deputy, won nearly one-third of their total of 99 seats from eight major cities alone.
Out of the total 42 urban seats in Gujarat, the BJP won 36, while six went to the Congress.
This included Patel and trader dominated Surat, where the BJP won 16 out of 17 seats. Only in Vadodara did the Congress make a beginning, going from zero to two seats. The Congress had tied up with Hardik Patel, the face of the Patel, or Patidar campaign for quotas in jobs and education for the state's political influential Patel community that have traditionally sided with the BJP.
The Congress ended up with 77, a performance Mr Gandhi has said he was satisfied with though, he has conceded, it may have been possible to pick up some more seats if the party had pushed itself a little harder.
The Congress' biggest gain was in the Saurashtra, which has 56 assembly seats. This is also where the Congress gained 15 seats, leaving the BJP with only 23 of those seats compared to 36 in the last election.
Congress leaders suggest Rahul Gandhi's meetings on Saturday with party leaders was as much an exercise to understand the reasons for the party's performance from the perspective of its local leaders and give them feedback as it was to signal, as Rahul Gandhi had told them during campaigning, that he would be continuous touch with them.
That he will start his one-day visit with a visit to Somnath Temple in Gir Somnath district, about 420 km from the state capital Gandhinagar, is also been seen as a counter to blunt the BJP campaign against him that had linked his temple visits to elections.