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Congress in Hibernation

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After receiving a severe drubbing in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, the Congress will not be sending its spokespersons on TV channels for debates for a month. The Congress, which only managed to win 52 seats, wants to steer clear of TV debates for one month. The party, which had fought the Lok Sabha polls on unemployment and Rafale deal, has failed to challenge the BJP as the saffron party won the election by winning 303 seats. Congress leaders think that it is not the right time to attack the Modi government by raking up the same issues. By doing so, Congress is going into the damage control mode by asking its spokespersons to refrain from participating in TV debates.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted, “@INCIndia has decided to not send spokespersons on television debates for a month. All media channels/editors are requested to not place Congress representatives on their shows.”

Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi said, “TV anchors present false information and they support BJP. It seems that these anchors are spokespersons of BJP. They bring forward those matters which can create hostility between two communities. When Muslims don’t recite Vande Mataram a wrong message is sent towards Hindus and they think that the former is not patriotic towards the nation. However, Muslims only bow before Allah. According to me, the debate should happen and can happen if the show is hosted by journalists like Ravish Kumar, Vinod Dua, and Punya Prasun Bajpai.”

Congress has always been known to attack the BJP through television and social media. The issues raised by the party against BJP have failed to strike a chord with the voters. The decision to not send spokespersons for TV debate comes at a time when Congress is facing leadership issues. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had taken responsibility for the party’s failure in the general elections and had offered to step down. However, the party leaders have not accepted his resignation and have urged him to continue leading the party. These leaders, sources said, maintained that the Congress cannot afford to have someone new at the helm to revive the outfit at this juncture and that responsibility for the defeat is collective and not individual. Rahul, nonetheless, is adamant on his stand and has given the party one month to find his successor.

Former BJP Rajasthan president Arun Chaturvedi said, “It is not a right step taken by the Congress as they are shunning the truth. The party has been speaking lies and they have taken this decision to save their face. They are not in a position to face questions from the media. Debates should happen in a democracy.”

After the Lok Sabha poll defeat confusion is prevailing in the party and there is no clarity on official party position on a sensitive internal issue. Moreover, AICC feels that spokespersons should not appear on TV debates at a time when they are not in a position to defend or articulate party line with clarity. The leadership also doesn’t want these spokespersons ending up giving ideas and suggestions to senior leadership through talk shows.

NCP IT cell National President Bindu Bhosale said, “It may be their internal decision as a reshuffling of the outfit might be happening. Therefore, the party might have restricted spokespersons from participating in TV debates.”

Congress is currently facing dissension in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Karnataka, three of the only five states where it runs a government. In Madhya where the Congress lost 28 out of 29 seats to the BJP, the Kamal Nath government has a thin majority and is at the mercy of two legislators of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The Congress had fielded candidates against BSP in Uttar Pradesh for the Lok Sabha polls and now BSP chief Mayawati has no obligation to continue supporting the Congress government in MP.

Congress spokesperson Hemlata Patil said, “The All India Congress Committee (AICC) has taken this decision. It is a right step taken by the party. Some media is biased and hold discussions. Thus, if no spokesperson participates in TV debate for one month a message can be sent to media that no discussion is possible without an opposition party. They will review the decision after one month. On the other hand, in a democracy, we should interact with the people.”

Rahul Gandhi had raised objections against Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot seeking the Lok Sabha ticket for his son Vaibhav Gehlot. However, Vaibhav contested election from Jodhpur and lost. Rahul is reported to have reacted very strongly to this. The internal crises within Karnataka government have been rampant ever since the Congress and Janata Dal (S) stopped the BJP juggernaut in the assembly polls. Two Congress legislators had met former Karnataka chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader S.M. Krishna setting off alarm bells for the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government which is trying to keep its alliance intact after differences cropped due to poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls.

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