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Rahul Gandhi resigns as Congress president

By AFP
July 04, 2019

NEW DELHI: Rahul Gandhi quit on Wednesday as head of India’s main opposition Congress party, taking the blame for a second-straight election humiliation by right-wing Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“As president of the Congress party, I am responsible for the loss of the 2019 election,” he said in a statement on his official Twitter account. “Accountability is critical for the future growth of our party. It is for this reason that I have resigned as Congress president.”

The 49-year-old, who was seeking to become the fourth member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to become prime minister, had only been Congress president since December 2017.Congress has dominated Indian politics since independence in 1948, but it has seen a spectacular collapse in support in the past decade. Gandhi said immediately after his party’s defeat in the April-May national elections that he would not continue as leader, but party barons had hoped to change his mind and Wednesday’s official announcement still came as a surprise.

Congress won only 52 of the 543 seats in the lower house of parliament in the election. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took 303 seats, increasing its majority as it won a second consecutive five-year term.

The BJP’s huge victory stunned the opposition and political pundits who had predicted a reduced majority for Modi’s party. While saying he could not avoid his share of the blame, Gandhi launched a virulent attack on the BJP’s tactics, hinting that the vote had not been free and fair and saying that the Indian press, judiciary and election commission had all been turned against the opposition. “We didn’t fight a political party in the 2019 election. Rather, we fought the entire machinery of the Indian state,” he said. Gandhi also accused the BJP of seeking to “destroy the fabric of our nation” and vowed to protect the country until his “last breath”.Critics accuse the BJP of stoking religious tensions and trying to undermine the country’s secular credentials. The BJP denies the accusations, insisting it believes in equality for all.