CWC to soon discuss Antony panel report on LS poll rout: Congress

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said media was contributing factor for the fall

New Delhi: Looking to take corrective action following its worst-ever showing in Lok Sabha polls, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) is likely to soon take up the report of the AK Antony panel, which went into the reasons behind the debacle.

"CWC will discuss the report which has been submitted... I am sure that the CWC will meet at the earliest," said party spokesperson and former Commerce Minister, Anand Sharma.

Speaking at an AICC briefing here, Sharma, however, declined to give a date for the CWC meeting.

The much-talked-about report of the Antony panel was submitted to Congress President Sonia Gandhi on August 14.

Comprising, apart from Antony, AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik, secretary RC Khuntia and Avinash Pandey, the four-member panel was set up a fortnight after the general election results were declared on May 16.

The outcome came as a huge shock for Congress, whose presence in Lok Sabha was reduced to 44 MPs, a massive drop from the 206 seats it had won in 2009.

Sources have maintained that the report has not faulted party vice president Rahul Gandhi's leadership for the debacle and has instead identified price rise, loopholes in Congress's communication strategy and the media's focus on Narendra Modi as the main factors behind the drubbing.

Senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, too, has said that the media was "one of the contributory factors" behind the slide in Congress's fortunes in the Lok Sabha polls.

The report is also said to touch on the lacunae in Congress's campaign, organisational weaknesses within the party and the inability of middle-level leaders to rise to the occasion.

Responding to a query on whether there was a question mark on Rahul's leadership after the elections and if the committee had suggested something along those lines, Antony, a few days back had said that it was all "speculation" which was being spread by people aiming to weaken Congress.

The Antony panel began the review exercise in June and has met PCC chiefs, CLP leaders and other party functionaries from the various states to draw up its report.

Apart from giving an overall report on the party's poor showing nationwide, the report also focuses on specific states, incorporating discussions held with their leaders on the reasons for the defeat along with the recommendations of the panel, sources said.

With Assembly polls approaching in four states, the Antony panel report is expected to help the Congress leadership take remedial steps.

This is the second Antony panel in the last 15 years to have been tasked with a similar job.

Sonia Gandhi had constituted an Antony committee in 1999, soon after the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA had won the polls.

Prior to that, when Congress lost in the 1998 elections, she had appointed a task force under PA Sangma, who was then a Congress member.

The previous Antony panel report, after being submitted to the Congress President, was discussed and accepted at a meeting of the CWC.

CWC went over the report at length in two sessions. It had then concluded that organisational weakness was one of the main reasons behind its poor performance.

A number of ideas that Rahul Gandhi has brought in to improve the party's functioning are based on the recommendations of that panel's report.

A major recommendation of the previous Antony committee was for the announcement of party candidates a month in advance for Assembly and three months in advance for Lok Sabha elections. The move was aimed at putting an end to last- minute selection of candidates and the resultant confusion within the ranks.

However, major portions of the report are yet to be implemented.

( Source : PTI )
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