NEW DELHI :
The assembly election results in Haryana and Maharashtra on Thursday came as a morale booster for a moribund Congress, which stood battered ever since its humiliating defeat in the last Lok Sabha poll and was thrust into a leadership crisis thereafter.
Congress insiders say the "surprisingly well" verdict, especially in Haryana where it changed the leadership at the last moment, gave a clear message to the party leadership to refocus on regional satraps.
Had the party, they say, lent full support to former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the verdict could have swung in Congress's favour in Haryana.
However, the verdict appears to have given the Congress the message that it is the "old guard" which has delivered and brought it back to power in some states, despite intensifying resistance to their claims of influence among voters from the younger generation of leaders.
It was Hooda who infused life back into the party's rank and file within four months of losing all 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana. It was veterans like Ashok Gehlot, Amarinder Singh and Kamal Nath who helped the Congress return to power in Rajasthan, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh.
The Congress won 46 seats in Maharashtra, against 42 in 2014 elections, and 31 seats in Haryana against only 15 in the last election.
While it won a vote share of 28.1 per cent with 35.15 lakh votes in Haryana, the Congress is set to win 44 seats in Maharashtra, with a vote share of 15.8 per cent and a total of around 86.78 lakh votes.
Congress workers, whose morale had been low ever since the drubbing the Congress suffered in last several elections, barring Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, feel Haryana and Maharashtra results would prove to be a stimulus to regain strength and fight.
The top Congress leadership will now deliberate on the poll verdict at a meeting of a group of leaders on Friday, which will be headed by party president Sonia Gandhi and attended by former prime minister Manmohan Singh and its leader Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress leaders would also discuss the strategy for the party to gain strength across the country and evolve a plan to take on the BJP and defeat it at the hustings.
Insiders admit that had the party focussed on resolving the leadership issue in Haryana a few months ago and given the charge to Hooda, the outcome could have been more favourable.
Congress leaders also feel that the infighting within the party in Maharashtra cost it dearly, as it fared poorly even than its ally the Nationalist Congress Party. The Congress stood as the fourth-largest party in Maharashtra, after BJP, Shiv Sena and NCP.
Senior party leader Ahmed Patel said the BJP had taken its voters for granted and "their arrogance of presumed invincibility has been given a befitting reply".
"Today's assembly and bypolls results will be the beginning of their downfall," Patel said on Twitter.
Another senior Congress leader, P Chidambaram, who is in ED custody in a corruption case, took a swipe at the BJP, saying miracles can happen if people shed their fear and calm, and quiet patriotism can defeat muscular nationalism.
"Congress workers must believe that the BJP can be defeated in an election. Calm and quiet patriotism can defeat muscular nationalism," he said on Twitter.
The party's senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said the party would deliberate on the poll outcome Friday and admitted it would address the issues within.
Party leader Shakti Singh Gohil welcomed the poll verdict and said this will infuse a new hope and confidence in the party's rank and file, even as the BJP's false narrative and promises have been exposed before people. PTI SKC SKC ABH ABH