The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia denied solo credit too

New Delhi, Dec. 4: Sonia Gandhi must be feeling as shocked as she would had she been in the driver’s seat and three tyres of her car burst simultaneously.

With the Congress gameplan going bust in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, questions are bound to be raised in the party about her share of responsibility in the debacle. In the run-up to the polls, the Congress chief had rejected the clamour for change of guard in the last two states.

Sonia stayed put at 10 Janpath during the day, showing up only briefly at the annual Navy Day function. She even skipped Parliament.

Sonia told reporters she was “deeply disappointed” and that the party needed to pull up its socks for the big challenge next year. Acknowledging the anti-incumbency wave, she said: “People expected much more from us. We could not perform to their expectations.” She was particularly shocked at the Rajasthan outcome.

Congress chief spokesman Jaipal Reddy indicated the party might have totally failed to read the voters’ minds in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and to a lesser extent in Madhya Pradesh.

“In Madhya Pradesh, we have been in power for 10 long years. And in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh for five years. We see the results mostly as a product of the anti-incumbency factor,” he said.

Reddy tried to downplay the debacle, saying the Congress had been losing and winning in these states in a cyclical manner over the last three decades.

But he took care to shield Sonia from responsibility for the defeats, and in the process deprived her of credit for the Delhi victory.

“We don’t fault Sonia’s leadership. We do not credit the victory of Delhi to her. Similarly, we don’t debit the defeats in her account,” he said. “We hold none responsible for this outcome.”

Reddy hinted that Sonia may not convene a stocktaking session of the Congress working committee without deliberating with her aides. Leaders like Arjun Singh have not questioned her leadership but have made no secret of their grouse against AICC general secretary Ambika Soni.

Soni’s problems are doubled because she was in charge of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. She had also made the Rajasthan polls a prestige issue.

Sonia’s Kerala problems are likely to mount as rebel leader K. Karunakaran has been waiting to step up his campaign to oust chief minister A.K. Antony. Today’s results could have given him that opening.

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