The Congress has announced that it will not participate in television debates for a month, in the middle of a huge internal crisis following Rahul Gandhi’s refusal to continue as its chief over the party’s election rout.
“The Congress has decided to not send spokespersons on television debates for a month,” the party’s spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a tweet on Thursday.
“All media channels/editors are requested to not place Congress representatives on their shows,” he added.
Congress leaders say the gag is meant to give the party time to sort out its mess and understand what went wrong, away from constant media speculation. Also, the party doesn’t want to be seen criticizing the BJP or Narendra Modi in debates, say sources.
The Congress was wiped out in 18 states and union territories and couldn’t win even in the states it won in December – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.On the other hand, the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi won 303 seats to win an incredible back-to-back majority, a feat previously achieved only by Congress icons like Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.
The worst cut of all was Rahul Gandhi’s defeat in his traditional Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh, where he had effortlessly won since 2004, when he debuted in politics.
If the Congress president had not contested from Kerala’s Wayanad and won, he would not have been in parliament. The party, with 52 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, does not even qualify for the post of Leader of Opposition, for which 55 seats is the prerequisite.
On Saturday, at a post-mortem of the party’s decimation, Rahul Gandhi announced his decision to quit and the Congress Working Committee, the party’s top decision-making body, rejected it.
The familiar ritual after every Congress election debacle did not follow the script this time; Rahul Gandhi has refused to change his mind about quitting and has not met any leader since Saturday apart from his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
The 48-year-old has reportedly asked the party to look for a new chief, a non-Gandhi. The Congress is debating ways of weathering this crisis – one option would be to have Rahul Gandhi lead the party in parliament.