Bhopal, Dec. 29: Foundation day celebrations turned into a “voice-your-frustration” day at the Madhya Pradesh Congress headquarters here yesterday, with several lawmakers blaming the Assembly poll disaster on the central and state leaderships and their advisers.
Everybody from Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to Manmohan Singh and state stalwarts came under fire, although some of the critics may have partly been settling factional scores.
Anger, despondency and a sense of helplessness pervaded the meeting, held three weeks after the Congress lost its third straight Assembly election in the state, winning just 58 of the 230 seats.
Sanjay Pathak, an MLA, questioned the high command’s decision to support the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi.
When state Congress chief Kantilal Bhuria intervened to say this was not the occasion to discuss the AAP, most other MLAs and state Congress officials said Pathak should be allowed to speak.
“We need to ponder how the aam aadmi, who stood by the Congress for over a century, has switched support to the AAP. And are we helping the AAP consolidate its base by supporting Kejriwal’s government?” Pathak said.
State Congress spokesperson Mokesh Nayak slammed the regional satraps and the state leadership, asking why was Rahul’s directive to wrap up ticket distribution by July wasn’t followed.
“Why were the tickets distributed till the last date of filing nomination? Why are all those who recommended their favourites not being held responsible?”
Sajjan Singh Verma, an MP, attacked the “jholachhap, NGO type” strategists for the “mess”. He accused Jairam Ramesh, C.P. Joshi, Madhusudan Mistry, Shashi Tharoor and Sandeep Dikshit of “misleading” Rahul.
“These drawing-room warriors have no idea of ground realities. They speak well but are disconnected from the feelings and aspirations of the common man,” Sajjan said. He issued an appeal to Rahul to “sideline” these advisers.
A defensive Bhuria mumbled that he was “officiating” till the new state party chief is announced. That immediately prompted the query why the central leadership hadn’t held a review of the poll performance.
Privately, most MLAs blame Union ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath and general secretary Digvijaya Singh. An MLA who didn’t want to be quoted wondered why Scindia had travelled abroad ignoring his poll duties.
Later, speaking to The Telegraph, MLA and former state minister Satyadev Katare hit out at the party central leadership and the Prime Minister.
“Manmohan Singh has become a liability for the party. What’s the point having an economist Prime Minister who cannot check price rise? He is destroying the Congress for ever,” Katare alleged. He accused the high command of “lacking spine”.
“Soniaji and Rahulji failed to check the senior leaders whose provocative statements cost us. They watched silently as Digvijaya, Jairam, Beni Prasad Verma, Raj Babbar and others made cheap and unbecoming statements.”
Katare said the damage had been done by the time the party’s national-level spokespersons issued clarifications.
“Digvijaya and some others made it seem as though we were against the majority community’s sentiments. Raj Babbar appeared to be mocking the poor when he said one could eat a full meal for Rs 12,” he said.
“I can’t help recalling how Indira Gandhi had dropped Vidya Charan Shukla when he had made a politically incorrect statement.”
He was referring to how Shukla was axed as Union food and civil supplies minister in 1982 when he questioned the rationale behind the public distribution system.
Katare alleged that Rahul’s inexperience had helped Narendra Modi gain ground.
“He (Rahul) should stop being a pacifist. He should tell the country he is itching to lead an offensive against Pakistan. Why should we let Modi emerge as the only one capable of giving a befitting reply to Pakistan’s nefarious designs?”
Katare accused the leadership of failing to grasp “the impact of Anna Hazare and the Aam Aadmi Party movement”.
“The Congress kept behaving as if these popular movements did not exist when they were expressing concern against corruption and inefficiency. Now the Congress faces a stiff challenge from both the AAP and Anna,” Katare said.
He accused Sonia and Manmohan of having been “defensive” on corruption.
“Under UPA rule, many ministers had to go but Manmohan seemed to be defending the indefensible. By the time Sonia acted, the public mood had turned against the Congress.”
Katare said his “plain-speaking” should not be “misconstrued” as defiance or indiscipline.
“It’s my sense of belonging and loyalty to the party that is prompting me to speak out — else, it will be too late for the party and the country.”
Yesterday, another Congress leader, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, had accused Digvijaya of “conspiring” against the party’s interests.
Katare, perceived to be close to Jyotiraditya, said it was time that “stalwarts” such as Digvijaya were given a “rest”.