As it tries to sort things out within the organisation thrown in turmoil after its president Rahul Gandhi’s decision to quit the post following the drubbing in Lok Sabha polls, the Congress today (Thursday, May 30) decided to stop sending its spokespersons to participate in television news debates for a month.
“Congress has decided to not send spokespersons on television debates for a month,” party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala announced today. “All media channels/editors are requested to not place Congress representatives on their shows.”
The Congress has won just 52 of 543 Lok Sabha seats this election, eight more than its 2014 tally but still short of staking claim to the Leader of Opposition position.
The Samajwadi Party, whose alliance with arch-rival Bahujan Samaj Party only yielded 15 of UP’s 80 seats, has taken a similar decision. SP president Akhilesh Yadav had last week barred all party spokespersons from appearing on television debates with immediate effect.
In Congress, Rahul Gandhi, taking ‘100% responsibility’ for the debacle, said he would step down and also asked the party to find someone outside his family for the post rather than choosing his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
The Congress Working Committee rejected his offer and, authorising him to restructure the party, begged him to stay. Earlier reports, however, had said that several Congress leaders wanted accountability to be fixed on the leader.
The party’s decision to stop sending spokespersons for television debates comes after an earlier appeal to media not to indulge in guessing game and avoid reports based on ‘conjectures, gossip, rumours etc’. Following the Congress Working Committee meeting, the party had had to clarify on media reports citing remarks made by Gandhi at the closed-door meeting.
A report in ThePrint quoted a senior Congress leader to say that the brass was upset about the fact that a number of spokespersons were either ill-informed about the party’s position on a number of issues or ended up portraying the party in bad light.
“Not only this, many gave their opinions on controversial issues that the party had a clear strategy of not commenting on,” the leader added.
On Wednesday, the party reached out to “like-minded” opposition parties, inviting them for a meeting to be held tomorrow. Some of the top opposition leaders have already asked Rahul to reconsider his decision to resign and there could be more pressure on him to stay on when opposition leaders meet.
A meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party in likely to be held on Saturday, possibly to elect its leader and the party’s leader in Lok Sabha ahead of the Parliament session slated to begin on June 6.
Rahul Gandhi, firm on his decision to step down, is said to be open to leading his party in Lok Sabha although the leader of the Congress will not get the Leader of the Opposition status as it does not have 55 MPs or ten per cent of the total strength of the House.