The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s big win in the Delhi election has opened up a rift within the Congress, which suffered its second consecutive duck in the capital. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, who posted a tweet “saluting” the people of Delhi for defeating the BJP, was called out by his own party spokesperson, Sharmistha Mukherjee.
Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP won 62 of Delhi’s 70 seats and the BJP was limited to eight. The Congress, which ruled Delhi for 15 years till 2013, won nothing. Congress candidates lost their deposits in 63 seats, including those where Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi had addressed rallies in the final days of the campaign. (Candidates lose their deposit if they fail to get a minimum of one-sixth of the total votes).
“AAP won, bluff and bluster lost. The people of Delhi, who are from all parts of India, have defeated the polarising, divisive and dangerous agenda of the BJP. I salute the people of Delhi who have set an example to other states that will hold their elections in 2021 and 2022,” Mr Chidambaram tweeted.
He was not the only Congress leader to take comfort in the BJP’s defeat.
Congress national spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee, who critiqued her own party in a series of tweets, responded sharply to Mr Chidambaram’s post.
“With due respect sir, just want to know- has (Congress) outsourced the task of defeating BJP to state parties? If not, then why are we gloating over AAP victory rather than being concerned about our drubbing? And if ‘yes’, then we (state Congress units) might as well close shop!” she tweeted.
With due respect sir, just want to know- has @INCIndia outsourced the task of defeating BJP to state parties? If not, then why r we gloating over AAP victory rather than being concerned abt our drubbing? And if ‘yes’, then we (PCCs) might as well close shop! https://t.co/Zw3KJIfsRx
— Sharmistha Mukherjee (@Sharmistha_GK) February 11, 2020
She had much more to say and was unfiltered in her takedown of her party leadership.
“We are again decimated in Delhi. Enough of introspection, time for action now. Inordinate delay in decision-making at the top, lack of strategy and unity at state level, demotivated workers, no grassroots connect -all are factors. Being part of the system, I too take my share of responsibility,” Ms Mukherjee tweeted.
“BJP playing divisive politics, Kejriwal playing ‘smart politics’ and what are we doing? Can we honestly say that we’ve done all 2 put our house in order? We are busy capturing Congress whereas other parties are capturing India. If we are to survive, time to come out of exalted echo chambers!”
Several other Congress leaders like Khushbu Sundar and Sanjay Jha also talked about “action” rather than introspection.
Ms Mukherjee’s father Pranab Mukherjee, former President of India, and Mr Chidambaram have been ministerial colleagues for years in several Congress government.
The chief of the Congress women’s wing, Ms Mukherjee had also been defeated in the 2015 Delhi election.
In this Delhi election, the Congress’s vote percentage is the lowest in any assembly poll — 4.26% — and has dropped sharply from 22.5 % in the national election last year.
In 2013, the Congress was reduced to eight seats and in 2015, it scored zero amid deepening infighting.
This time, top party leaders spoke about missing three-time chief minister Sheila Dikshit, the party’s most prominent Delhi face, who died last year.
Even when Sheila Dikshit led the Congress in Delhi, a section tried to dislodge her and the feuding seeped into the party’s poll performance.