As Congress once again scored naught in Delhi — which it once ruled for 15 years at a stretch — the mood at 24, Akbar Road was not of anguish or shock but of quiet resignation to the inevitability of it all. Such is the complacency within the party rank and file.
Barring a few voices of criticism, most prominent faces in the party contented themselves by revelling in the fact that the BJP too got swept away in the AAP wave. Some nonchalantly reflected on the steep drop in party's vote share from an already abysmal 9.7 percent in 2015 to a 4.26 percent this time; others outright celebrated AAP's win, a party that is single-handedly responsible for wiping out Congress from its traditional pocket boroughs in the National Capital.
Congress leader P Chidambaram said AAP's win is a "booster for the confidence" of the Opposition that the BJP can be defeated in every state. He said the Delhi vote was close to an all India vote than to a state-specific vote as the national capital is a "mini India".
If the voters represent the views of the states they came from, the Delhi vote is a booster for the confidence of the Opposition that the BJP can be defeated in every state.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) February 11, 2020
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party's defeat in Delhi is disappointing but claimed that "we have, however, not lost the battle". He added that Delhi polls have taught a lesson to political parties as to how a national party should not conduct a venomous, hate campaign. "It is a rejection of the politics and leadership of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah for the vision and vitriolic poll campaign of shooting people, electrocuting them and dividing them, has been decimated by Delhi voters," he said.
Shashi Tharoor posted an Urdu couplet on Twitter saying that the AAP's win felt like victory in defeat.
किसी की जीत पे यूं नाज़ाँ हैं
शिकस्त खा के फतह पाई हो ! #DelhiElectionResults
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) February 12, 2020
"The Delhi results are disappointing for Congress but there are consolations: the BJP's divisive politics has been repudiated with their rout; AAP's development message is what has prevailed over identity politics; and 8 months after sweeping the LS polls the winners have been rebuked," Tharoor said in another tweet.
The Jammu and Kashmir Congress on Tuesday said the Delhi Assembly election results show that voters have rejected the politics of "hate" and voted for "peace and development". The Jammu and Kashmir Congress said people of Delhi have defeated "the divisive forces and rejected the agenda of polarisation". "The people have given a loud and clear message that vote politics based on hate, religion and arrogance is not acceptable and they want peace, harmony and basic development," the party said in a statement. On its own debacle in the Delhi polls, the party unit merely said: "People preferred not to divide the positive vote and as a result Congress suffered defeat."
A Congress leader and a minister in Punjab Cabinet went as far as to claim that the defeat was of BJP as the Congress already didn't have anything to lose, almost admitting that the party did not even consider itself in the race.
"We were zero earlier, and this time too we are zero. So it's not our defeat. It's a defeat for the BJP," Punjab cabinet minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot told media persons on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, former Leader of Opposition and Congress veteran Mallikarjun Kharge drew solace in the fact that the BJP lost despite the fact that Modi and Shah lead the campaign.
"The BJP had Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, MLAs and Chief Ministers to campaign for Delhi elections and yet they lost," Kharge told ANI.
He said that this election was not about who won the election but was about "defeating the BJP’s move to divide the community."
This attitude, however, did not go down well with some leaders, who questioned the complacency.
Reacting to such remarks, Congress' Sharmistha Mukherjee asked if the party had outsourced the task of defeating the BJP to others.
Replying to Chidambaram's aforementioned tweet, Mukherjee asked the former minister if the state Congress units should shut shop in case the party had decides that others will take on the BJP across states. Sharmishtha is daughter of former president Pranab Mukherjee, who has been a Congress leader all his life.
With due respect sir, just want to know- has @INCIndia outsourced the task of defeating BJP to state parties? If not, then why r we gloating over AAP victory rather than being concerned abt our drubbing? And if ‘yes’, then we (PCCs) might as well close shop! https://t.co/Zw3KJIfsRx
— Sharmistha Mukherjee (@Sharmistha_GK) February 11, 2020
Sanjay Jha put out a cryptic tweet, perhaps in an attempt to strike a middle note at a time when half the party seemed content as long as BJP was losing, while another half epressed exasperation on the lax attitude.
While he said that people shouldn't make a "big deal" about Congress leaders' candour, he also asserted that some of them were expressing their anguish over the result because they still cared about the party and its performance.
Folks, please do not make a big deal about Congress leaders speaking out candidly after our dismal showing in Delhi. Many of us are angry or upset because we care. This is not about pulling someone down etc. Accountability must be the name of the game. #CongressiByNature
— Sanjay Jha (@JhaSanjay) February 12, 2020
Jaiveer Shergill suggested that the Congress should avoid things like justifying defeat, finding happiness in the BJP's defeat and telling itself that wins and losses are cyclic in elections.
Sheila Dikshit's son, Sandeep Dikshit, said the results did not surprise him and internal politics kept the party from doing good. However, this spurred another blame game as AICC Delhi in-charge PC Chacko sought to hold put the blame of the party's decline on late Dikshit, saying the party started losing ground in 2013.
Dikshit was chief minister of Delhi at the time. "The party's downfall started since 2013. The party lost in all subsequent elections thereafter and the new outfit AAP took away all the Congress votebank," he said without naming Dikshit.
This did not go down well with Milind Deora.
Deora slammed Chacko for his remarks saying, "Sheila Dikshit ji was a remarkable politician and administrator. During her tenure as chief minister, Delhi was transformed and Congress was stronger than ever. Unfortunate to see her being blamed after her death. She dedicated her life to Congress and the people of Delhi."
Dikshit's former aide Pawan Khera said, "Just a data point. In 2013, when we lost, Congress vote share in Delhi was 24.55 pc. Sheila ji was not involved in 2015, when the vote share slipped to 9.7 pc. In 2019, when she was back in charge, the vote share came up to 22.46 pc."
A few Congress leaders also acknowledged that the party did not go full throttle into campaigning. Senior Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra campaigned for party candidates just two-three days ahead of the elections. The party candidates lost deposits in all the seats where the Gandhis had addressed rallies — Jangpura, Sangam Vihar, Chandni Chowk and Kondli.
The grand old party of Indian politics was out of the race in each of the 70 constituencies by distant margins with 63 of its candidates losing their security deposits. Most of the Congress candidates got less than five percent of the total votes polled in their respective constituencies.
Delhi Congress chief Subhash Chopra's daughter Shivani, who was the party candidate from Kalkaji, also could not save her deposit. Former Delhi Assembly speaker Yoganand Shastri's daughter, Priyanka Singh, also forfeited her deposit. The vice-president of Delhi Mahila Congress got only 3.6 percent votes. The party's campaign committee chairman and former cricketer Kirti Azad's wife, Poonam Azad, lost badly and stood fourth, polling only 2,604 (2.23 percent) votes.
Lack of a credible face, weak strategy and candidates led to the washout of the party in Delhi, where it was seen as a reluctant contestant that lacked the fighting spirit.
The Congress did not win any seat in the 2015 Assembly elections but had managed to garner a 9.7 percent vote share. This time, it stood decimated further after it ceded its vote bank.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Feb 12, 2020 16:24:22 IST