New Delhi: Raj Babbar the Congress' Uttar Pradesh chief has offered to resign after the party's disastrous performance in the assembly elections, results which were announced over the weekend. The Congress has won seven of UP's 403 seats, described by party vice president Rahul Gandhi as "a little down."
- Congress won 7 of UP's 403 seats in assembly elections
- Rahul worked very hard, I take the blame: Raj Babbar
- Questions have been raised over Gandhi's leadership after repeated losses
"I take responsibility as the party's chief in UP. Our national leaders worked so hard," said Mr Babbar, rejecting the very idea of any blame for the rout being apportioned to Mr Gandhi, who led his party's UP campaign and fronted the strategy to partner with Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav. The two parties together could win only 54 seats together. Chief rival BJP and its allies have won 325.
"You cannot change the leadership. The leadership only creates teams of people like us and these teams are responsible for election wins and losses," Mr Babbar told NDTV. He said he agreed with Rahul Gandhi who said yesterday that structural changes are needed to reinvent the party, which has faced a string of defeats losing state after state to the BJP after the 2014 national election, which reduced the Congress to its lowest tally ever in Parliament.
With every defeat questions have swirled around the leadership of Rahul Gandhi who was appointed Congress vice president in 2013. The one big win for the Congress in Punjab on Saturday has been credited to the party's Amarinder Singh, who will be the next chief minister.
But senior Congress leaders, even as they warn that the party needs more than the usual prescription of "introspection" after every loss, have huddled again in defence of Rahul Gandhi.
"It has become a fashion to bash Rahul Gandhi. He is a unifying face and we can't do without him. It's not that Rahul needs us. We need Rahul Gandhi," said senior Congress leader Renuka Choudhury, who earlier told NDTV, "The problem is a lot deeper than what you are seeing."
"There is no question of Rahul Gandhi stepping down," said Digvijaya Singh, under fire for not acting as quickly as the BJP did to get win allies in Goa, which did not give a majority to any party. "The Nehru-Gandhi family is the greatest binding factor for the Congress and the leadership has to come to Rahul," Mr Singh, the Congress' Goa in charge said.
In election results for five states announced on Saturday, the Congress was trounced in UP and Uttarakhand, and though it was the single largest party in Goa and Manipur, it is the BJP which has formed governments in these states by quickly moving to secure the support of small regional parties.
Mr Babbar is the first to offer his resignation after the disaster that this year's assembly elections have turned out to be for the Congress. Senior leader BK Hariprasad had earlier offered to quit after the party performed badly in civic elections in Odisha, which he has charge of. A decision on these will be taken by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is away abroad for medical treatment and is expected to return later this month.