NEW DELHI: Annihilated in Delhi polls, a shocked Congress today promised to "reinvent" itself ànd revisit its "idealogical construct".
Party chief Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi congratulated Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi party for their landslide victory saying they "respect" the verdict.
The party's face for the polls Ajay Maken resigned owning moral responsibility for the defeat while a senior party leader suggested that internal dissension was also one of the reasons for the total decimation of the party in Delhi.
Insulating Rahul Gandhi from the blame for the defeat, Maken, who was the Campaign Committee Chief of the party, said that the election was fought on local issues.
At the same time, he also appeared placing a portion of the blame at former chief minister Sheila Dikshit's door saying that people questioned Congress as to why it did not fulfil the promises made now when it was in power in Delhi for last 15 years. Dikshit and Maken are not on very best of terms.
Asked what is the way out for Congress as people have rejected the party with a new face this time as well after voting out three-term Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in last assembly polls, he said that the result is a "continuation of 2013 mandate" and it's more an "affirmation for AAP" than "rejection of any other party".
"Whenever we went to people with our manifesto promises like cheap electricity and right to shelter, people questioned why did you not do in last 15 years. We have to rebuild that credibility among people.... We will re-invent the party," he said.
Congress leader Manish Tewari said the poll outcome could have been different had all the leaders participated in the election campaign.
"If collectively everybody would have been pitched into the campaign, it would have possibly made a difference," Tewari said.
He also clarified that the set back for Congress could not be attributed to individuals and favoured revisiting the idealogical construct.
"You will need to go and revisit your idealogical construct because for 10 years you built left of the centre idealogical construct.... Despite an idealogical construct which was left to the centre, which was buttressed by a very very strong legislative action, you still have a situation, where the AAP has taken over space," he said.
"That calls for a serious introspection on how get back the left to the centre space," he added.
Congress led by Sheila Dikshit had ruled for 15 consecutive years in Delhi till 2013 state polls, which threw a hung verdict with Congress winning only eight seats. In this election, the party has lost in all those seats as well.
On whether Rahul should take responsibility for the defeat, Maken said the election in Delhi was fought on local issues like electricity and shelter to homeless.
"I carried the party promises and the manifesto to people. People rejected that. So the responsibility squarely lies with me," he insisted.
Maken contended that whenever Aam Aadmi Party was attacked over its performance, people perhaps felt that 49 days were not enough and that Arvind Kejriwal's party should be given five years time to test them on their promises.
Immediately after the trends predicted zero seat for Congress and a landslide win for AAP, Rahul Gandhi said in a message, "My congratulations to Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi party for their victory. The people of Delhi have chosen AAP and we respect that. I wish Kejriwal and his team the very best."
An AICC statement said that the "Congress President and Congress Vice President congratulate Kejriwal".
Before this, Maken announced his resignation saying "I take moral responsibility for the party's defeat in Delhi assembly polls. I was the face of the Congress in Delhi elections. Since the party has not fared well, I take moral responsibility and am quitting as Congress general secretary".
Maken, who was the chairman of the Congress Campaign Committee in Delhi, has also sought an appointment from the Congress President, before whom he will formally submit his resignation, sources said.
Admitting that it is the "worst-ever" result for Congress, Maken said that the same is true in case of BJP.
He said that while there is no doubt that Congress will have to work to win back people's trust, it is a "big setback for BJP".
"Narendra Modi had said that the trend of Delhi is reflected in the nation as well. So Delhi results show that there is now anti-BJP wave in the whole country.
"BJP had also talked quite a lot about the achievements of the central government in advertisements in newspapers during the polls. It shows that people have negated that also," Maken said.