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Apr 07, 2012 at 07:48am IST

Muslim quota issue could have led to UP poll defeat: Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi: Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi has admitted that the issues of Batla House encounter and 9 per cent quota for Muslims could have led to the poll defeat in Uttar Pradesh. Sources said that the Congress meeting felt that 'confusion' over minority subquota cost the party dear.

Rahul Gandhi has warned that the indiscipline will not be tolerated in the party. The meeting saw several leaders blaming controversial statements of union ministers as a cause for Congress defeat. Sources said that the state Congress committee will now be dissolved.

Reviewing the Uttar Pradesh poll debacle, Rahul Gandhi on Friday warned against indiscipline in Congress and vowed to bring the party back to good days in the state saying he is not the one to accept defeat.

During the review meeting, several state party leaders blamed the controversial statements by Union Ministers and others as one of the reasons for the defeat.

Winding up the two-day exercise, Gandhi declared he is not the one to accept defeat and that he would turn the party's fortunes in the politically most crucial state of the country.

"Everyone was blamed," former Union Minister Salim Shervani said after the meeting, insisting at the same time that no names were taken as regards the controversial statements.

Former MP Rajesh Mishra said Gandhi gave hints of an overhaul of the state party organisation, making it clear that his involvement with Uttar Pradesh will continue.

"I am not the one to accept defeat and I will strive to bring glory to the party in Uttar Pradesh," Gandhi was quoted by Mishra as having said in the meeting which lasted for nearly four hours.

Gandhi, according to Mishra, also sent a strong message that he would not tolerate indiscipline in the party.

Union ministers, including Salman Khurshid, Beni Prasad Verma and Sriprakash Jaiswal, whose statements during the poll campaign created controversy, were a subdued lot after the meeting in the face of questions from the media on whether they were pulled up.

In the free and frank discussions, no names were taken but the reference was clear as to who were the targets.

The Congress meeting feels the "confusion" over the minority quota cost the party dear. Gandhi felt the quota issue was projected in a different way by the party's detractors, which sent a wrong message to a section of the electorate.

The party's poor showing in Amethi and Rae Bareli, the pocketboroughs of the Nehru-Gandhi family, also figured at the meeting.

Gandhi said the party's seats, as also the percentage of votes, has increased and now it should be Congress' endeavour to become the alternative in the state where SP and BSP are calling the shots.

Gandhi did not agree with the contention of some leaders that "outsiders" were given more weightage by the party during ticket distribution and that led to its Waterloo.

Some leaders were of the view that Khurshid should not have raised the minority quota issue in his wife's Assembly constituency Farrukabad as it did more damage to the party than good.

The exercise also saw some leaders like PL Punia blaming their detractors like Verma, without naming them.

With Lok Sabha polls due in 2014, Gandhi gave a signal that a drastic reorganisation of UP Congress is on the cards.

"Don't expect a kid gloves treatment from now on. It will be firm steps," was the message of Gandhi to the newly-elected MLAs of the party during the second day of the review of the poll debacle.

Congress had won only 28 out of 403 seats in UP in the recent assembly elections.

The interactions saw Gandhi giving the mantra of 'stay connected' at the grassroot level to Congress leaders. During the interaction, several MLAs lamented a disconnect with central leaders.

"Those who have stayed connected have sailed through. Do not forget the name of your grassroot workers after you win. Stay connected with people not with a purpose of winning elections but to serve them," said Gandhi.

Gandhi's meetings with defeated candidates on Thursday showed that a weak organisation, controversy over Muslim subquota in jobs and union ministers speaking "out of turn" were among the reasons that led to the debacle of Congress in Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress leader was told by the 153-odd defeated candidates that the party lacked a strong organisation in the state as compared to SP and BSP which have dominated the politics of Uttar Pradesh for over a decade.

(With additional inputs from PTI)

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