The BJP says Congress president Rahul Gandhi was clueless on how to compete with PM Modi.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi's assertion that the Gujarat election verdict was a "massive jolt" to the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's credibility in Gujarat low drew a sharp and stinging response. The BJP, which had wrapped up two wins in assembly elections just a day earlier, wondered if the new boss of the Congress, a party heading into "extinction", was trying to redefine what a setback really meant.
"I think his managers have not been able to explain to him that the Congress had lost in the elections," said Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. He also rubbed it in, reminding Mr Gandhi that the Congress had not only been losing state elections but also recent civic elections in Mr Gandhi's pocket borough, Amethi. "Today BJP is in power in 19 states. In all assembly constituency seats of Amethi (Gandhi's Parliamentary constituency), in Uttar Pradesh, they fought on 400 seats (civic polls) but could only manage seven seats," he said.
In contrast, the BJP had won Gujarat for the sixth consecutive time and also got the mandate in Himachal Pradesh by a near two-third majority.
In his first comments after the BJP win on Monday, Rahul Gandhi today called the election result in Gujarat a "moral victory" for the Congress party and a "massive jolt" for the BJP. He had also taken a swing at the Gujarat model of development, claiming that the model that was promoted across the government was actually hollow.
The Congress president, who was also the party's star campaigner in Gujarat, appears to be drawing satisfaction at the BJP securing fewer seats this time. The BJP crossed the majority mark at 92 seats but was one seat short of 100 in the 182-member Gujarat assembly. The Congress has narrowed the gap between the two parties, winning 80 seats, 19 more than last time.
But the BJP has asserted that the party, despite fewer seats, had increased its share of the popular vote and retained power, something that PM Modi had yesterday declared was "historic".
Union Minister Ananth Kumar chipped in later, asserting that it was the credibility of the Congress and Rahul Gandhi which is at an all-time low, not PM Modi whose credibility was at its peak, not just in India but globally.
Mr Javadekar had suggested some of the Congress president's comments suggested he was "clueless on how to compete with PM Modi".