After Congress chief Rahul Gandhi gave Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot a tongue-lashing for putting his son above the party, several Rajasthan ministers and MLAs have demanded that accountability be fixed and action taken for the Lok Sabha poll debacle.
According to some of the leaders, who attended Saturday's Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, Gandhi did a lot of "plain-speaking" in his analysis of the role of several party leaders while himself offering to quit as the party president. Ticking-off Gehlot for camping in Jodhpur for his son Vaibhav's election, Gandhi said the chief minister spent days campaigning extensively for his son in Jodhpur and neglected the rest of the state.
Reportedly, Gehlot had taken part in over 130 rallies and road shows, 93 of them in Jodhpur alone. His son, however, lost to the BJP's Gajendra Shekhawat.
Asked about Gandhi's remarks at the CWC meet against him, Gehlot told PTI that they were "quoted out of context", but maintained that the Congress president "has all the right to make any remark he deemed fit, in party interest". However, he did not give a direct answer when asked whether he would resign in the wake of the party's defeat in Rajasthan, barely five months after winning the assembly polls. He said whatever the high command decides should be binding on all and "position should not be a priority for any leader".
"Congress president has all the right on whatever changes he wants to initiate in the organisation or the governments, the working committee has left it to him. For any leader in the country, priority should not be any position and the only priority should be how to revive and strengthen the Congress party and and how they can contribute" Gehlot said.
Rajasthan Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said the CWC has given Gandhi full authority to fix the accountability and he will exercise that power.Asked about Gandhi hauling up senior leaders for putting their sons over party, he said: "Rahul Gandhi ji has full right to say what he has to in the CWC. Nobody is above him and he would have said it after giving it full thought. All workers and leaders of the Congress respect his word. I also learnt from the media about it (Rahul's remarks). If Rahul Gandhi ji finds fault with senior leaders, it is his right - to fix accountability and take corrective steps"
Echoing Khachariyawas' views, his cabinet colleague, Bhanwarlal Meghwal, also demanded that accountability be immediately fixed for the defeat.
"Whatever Rahul Gandhi said is right...Action should be taken against those people who are responsible for this defeat so that a message goes to the workers. The Congress workers are also very angry," he said. Meanwhile, Gehlot is in Delhi and met Congress general secretary in-charge K C Venugopal on Monday.
Two state ministers have also come out in the open to demand a detailed assessment by the top leadership. Cooperative Minister Udai Lal Anjana, and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Ramesh Meena have said the party should review the reasons for the defeat so that the party bounces back and performs well in upcoming local body elections in the state. K C Vishnoi, DCC president Hanumagarh, lashed out at Gehlot for the poll debacle.
The rumblings in the party cadres come after Gandhi, who left the CWC meeting abruptly and was adamant on not continuing as the Congress president, ticked off several senior leaders. Apart from Gehlot, Rahul Gandhi also criticised former Union minister P Chidambaram and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath for placing their sons before party interests.
Chidambaram's son Karti and Nath's son Nakul managed to win the Lok Sabha elections from their respective seats.
The CWC meeting was held in the backdrop of the Congress winning just 52 Lok Sabha seats and drawing a nought in 18 states and Union Territories. Gandhi himself lost from the family bastion of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, though he won from Wayanad in Kerala. The Congress drew a blank in Rajasthan for the second consecutive Lok Sabha polls and the poll debacle came just months after its victory in the assembly polls in the state.