A day after the Congress’s second consecutive crash in the Delhi election, senior leader PC Chacko has offered to quit amid condemnation of his comments apparently pointing a finger at Sheila Dikshit, a widely-respected party leader who died last year. Delhi Congress chief Subhash Chopra has also offered his resignation.
Mr Chacko, the Congress’s Delhi in-charge, was quoted as telling news agency ANI that the party’s “downfall” started when Sheila Dikshit was Chief Minister and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was born.
“The downfall of the Congress party started in 2013 when Sheila ji was the CM. The emergence of a new party, AAP took away the entire Congress vote bank. We could never get it back. It still remains with AAP,” Mr Chacko told ANI.
The comment may well mark the lowest point in the open infighting that has dragged the party down in Delhi for years.
Among the first to criticize the comments was Milind Deora, a senior leader of the Congress in Maharashtra.
“Sheila Dikshit ji was a remarkable politician and administrator. During her tenure as Chief Minister, Delhi was transformed & 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,” Milind Deora tweeted.
Sheila Dikshit, a three-time chief minister, was the Congress’s most popular face in Delhi and was credited with back-to-back poll victories on the strength of her government’s development work.
Ms Dikshit was voted out of power in 2013, when the one-year-old AAP performed surprisingly well in the Delhi election. The Congress provided support to an AAP government but it collapsed after Mr Kejriwal’s sudden resignation in 49 days.
Since then, AAP has swept both assembly elections and the Congress has been reduced to zero.
Last year, the 81-year-old Ms Dikshit had complained to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi about the factionalism within the party. She also tried to make changes in the Delhi Congress unit in the build-up to the polls but Mr Chacko and three other leaders objected in letters to her.
The veteran’s death in July left a leadership vacuum in the Delhi Congress. She was also admired by rivals in the BJP.
Yesterday, the Congress’s defeat was devastating and complete; its candidates lost their deposits in 63 of 70 seats (which means they failed to win even one-sixth of the votes).
Senior leaders said the party missed someone like Sheila Dikshit in Delhi. “We sorely miss Sheila Dikshit’s persona. We lost a tall leader and we could not pitch anyone else effectively,” said Abhishek Manu Singhvi.