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Clamour For Priyanka Grows Stronger In Congress

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Against the backdrop of a debacle in Lok Sabha polls, voices for bringing Priyanka Gandhi to the forefront in politics grew stronger within the Congress party with at least two leaders saying on Friday (23 May) she is a "big fighter" and has the "natural ability" to connect with people. Meanwhile, a paty leader close to Rahul Gandhi said it is wrong to blame him for the Congress debacle as UPA-II was "not a good product" that could be marketed with voters.
Outgoing Food Minister K V Thomas said there should be internal party elections in the Congress right from the booth-level.
"As a congressman, we wish that Priyanka Gandhi should come to the main arena. She should work with mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi as a team," Thomas told PTI.
"Priyanka is a big fighter. We have seen that in this election. Many people see madam Indira Gandhi in her. She is able to attract the people," said Thomas, who won the Lok Sabha election from Ernakulum constituency in Kerala.
He was asked about the reasons for defeat of the Congress party in the just-concluded general elections and steps needed to be taken for revival of the party.
He insisted that Rahul should not be blamed for the debacle, saying "We work as a team. So team has to share victory as well as defeat".
On the reasons for defeat, he said, "What went wrong, we have to analayse that. UPA I and II have taken number of initiatives like Right to Food and MNREGA. Economy has also improved. But we could not convey our achievements to people." 
On the other hand, the Congress leader said, Modi was "one-man army" who got backing of RSS and corporate houses.
"We respect the verdict of the people. Let him (Narendra Modi) do the good job. We will play the role of a healthy and constructive opposition".
Raju, outgoing HRD minister, said Priyanka has always been supportive of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
"Whether she will come to the forefront is a personal choice... I think she has a natural ability to connect with the people... It is indeed a strength," Raju said, adding her association with Congres is "integral".
Congress party has always maintained that Priyanka's role was limited to Amethi and Rae Bareli in this election.
Wrong To Blame Rahul, UPA-II Was Not A Good Product
Rahul Gandhi was faced with an unenviable task in the Lok Sabha polls as UPA-II was "not a good product" that could be marketed with voters, a party leader close to the Congress Vice President has said.
'Team Rahul' is under fire from certain sections within the party on the charge that it failed to come up to expectations and botched Congress's poll prospects, but the party leader said that the attack was based on wrong assumptions and flawed assessment of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh-led UPA-II government.
"You must remember that UPA-II saw the fiercest rivalry coming to the fore between certain senior Cabinet ministers and tit-for-tat actions by them which was followed by the leaking of the Niira Radia tapes as also 2G revelations. There was also a bugging controversy," said the Congress leader who was speaking on condition of anonymity.
A host of factors led to the UPA-II regime getting mired in controversies one after the other, beginning with the decision on a separate Telangana state announced on December 9, 2009, by the then Home Minister P Chidambaram, he said.
Incidentally, Pranab Mukherjee, then a senior minister who had earlier headed the UPA sub-committee on smaller states, was not in Delhi when the decision was taken.
Dismissing the attack by some leaders on Gandhi's advisers -- something which has been interpreted as an attack on the Congress Vice President himself -- the leader said it was merely intended to replace some people from key positions so that a number of leaders who were sidelined before can occupy the decision-making positions.
On the Lokpal issue, too, the matter went out of the hands of the government the way Anna Hazare and his supporters campaigned. Later, the issue of Yoga Guru Ramdev was also "mishandled", he said, adding that the Lokpal Bill, which could have been introduced in 2011, had to wait till December, 2013.
"It is a wrong perception that Gandhi dictated the UPA- II agenda. Had it been so, he would not have made a sudden entry during a news conference at Press Club and commit the act of tearing up the government's controversial ordinance on convicted lawmakers," he said.
The leader also brushed aside criticism that Gandhi's decision to hold US-style primaries for choosing candidates to 15 Lok Sabha seats had been a flop.
"Thirteen of the 15 seats where primaries were held were the ones which Congress had lost in the 2009 elections. And so it is wrong to say that defeat in those seats has anything to do with the primary exercise," he said.
He said that the Jat reservation, which was cleared at the eleventh hour by the government, had only served to alienate minorities as well as Dalits in northern India, especially Uttar Pradesh.
That was because the minorities had already turned against Jats after the Muzaffarnagar riots while the OBCs in states like UP and Haryana do not see eye to eye with the community.
"How can the campaign strategy, one or two mistakes, or people who took charge of certain things six months or one year back be held entirely responsible for the defeat, the atmosphere for which was building up in the last few years," the leader said.
Displeased with the Congress poll debacle, some party leaders had yesterday called for "ruthless introspection" and voiced criticism of 'Team Rahul', suggesting that they did not understand the ground realities.