Congress leaders say party needs overhaul

NEW DELHI • The Congress party, which did poorly in the latest assembly elections, needs a major overhaul, its leaders say.

The Congress lost power after 15 years in power in Assam, displaced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which registered its first win in the north-east. A Congress-led alliance also lost in Kerala, and poll tie-ups with other parties failed in both Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

The consolation prize: Puducherry, a union territory with a 30-seat assembly which it won in an alliance with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Though Congress president Sonia Gandhi noted that the party needed to "introspect" in reaction to the results, others said the time for introspection was long past.

"We have done enough introspection, shouldn't we go for a major surgery?" tweeted Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.

His comments were echoed by MP from Kerala Shashi Tharoor, who told an Indian television channel the party needed to "move beyond this cliched introspection business into some serious action".

Congress suffered a humiliating defeat in the 2014 general election and is now in power in five states and Puducherry. The BJP is in power in 14 states, excluding Assam.

Doubts have only deepened over the leadership of Congress vice- president Rahul Gandhi even though leaders sought to shield him.

Analysts said there was little doubt the party is facing a crisis. "They lack direction and do not seem to be learning from the past or thinking for the future. They are in trouble," said Dr Bhaskara Rao, of the Delhi- based Centre for Media Studies.

Nirmala Ganapathy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Congress leaders say party needs overhaul'. Print Edition | Subscribe