UP debacle: Congress set for major overhaul

With Lok Sabha polls not far away, a drastic reorganisation of the Uttar Pradesh Congress appears to be on the cards.

New Delhi: With Lok Sabha polls not far away, a drastic reorganisation of the Uttar Pradesh Congress appears to be on the cards with Rahul Gandhi giving hints that tough steps will be taken to stem the rot in the wake of the Assembly debacle.

"Don`t expect a kid gloves treatment from now on. It will be firm steps," was the message of Gandhi to the newly-elected MLAs of the party during the second day of the review of the poll debacle.

The interactions saw Gandhi giving the mantra of `stay connected` at the grassroot level to Congress leaders. During the interaction, several MLAs lamented a disconnect with central leaders.

"Those who have stayed connected have sailed through. Do not forget the name of your grassroots workers after you win. Stay connected with people not with a purpose of winning elections but to serve them," said Gandhi.

Interacting with party MLAs who were successful in the just-concluded battle of the ballot in the politically crucial state, the young leader also told them that unity of purpose and action in the state legislature will help them forcefully put forward their views.

With Congress winning only 28 out of the total 403 seats, Gandhi wanted the MLAs to effectively raise issues after proper homework so that they take up the correct causes.

During the interaction, the MLAs complained that the campaigning being strategised from Delhi lacked the local depth, flavour and the punch and resorted to generalisations about the state scene, ignoring the problems faced in individual constituencies.

Some of them were critical of the central leaders, including union ministers from the state over their non-inclusion by them during campaigning by Gandhi in their areas.

Against the backdrop of PCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi offering her resignation, the MLAs pressed for an overhaul of the UPCC to face the challenge in the next Lok Sabha elections at a time when the Samajwadi Party is resurgent and Bahujan Samaj Party wants to prove that its defeat was an aberration.

Joshi, who is among the 28 elected MLAs from Congress, put it succinctly "we will work to overcome the shortcomings that allowed others to win...we will fight the coming elections, including those to the local bodies with all our might and will work as watchdogs of people."

Gandhi`s meetings with defeated candidates yesterday showed that a weak organisation, controversy over Muslim subquota in jobs and union ministers speaking "out of turn" were among the reasons that led to the debacle of Congress in Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress leader was told by the 153-odd defeated candidates that the party lacked a strong organisation in the state as compared to SP and BSP which have dominated the politics of Uttar Pradesh for over a decade.

Some Union Ministers also came in for attack with several of those, who interacted with Rahul, complaining about the manner in which the state leaders were resorting to one upmanship.

The late announcement of the subquota for backward Muslims and the campaign Congress` rivals that it was "anti-OBC" had hurt Congress doubly as it antagonised both the minorities as well as the backwards, said some of the leaders from the state.

Several of the candidates hailed Gandhi for the leading the campaign from the front which they said resulted in the ouster of BSP from power.