A baulking Congress party on Monday decided to cling on to the Gandhi source of succor and thereby avert the withering away of the party, amidst accusations and counter accusations over the circumstances that led to the pathetic failure of the party at the hustings.
The Congress working committee unanimously rejected the resignation offer of party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi over the electoral debacle and decided to take ''collective responsibility'' for the poll rout.
Upset over the party's worst ever performance in the Lok Sabha elections, party president Sonia Gandhi offered to quit, saying she had "not been able to make the necessary changes to strengthen the party."
This may be perhaps the first time in the history of the Congress that a party president offered to resign after an electoral debacle.
Party vice president Rahul Gandhi, too, offered to resign. But the Congress working committee decided not to accept both and accept "collective responsibility" for the drubbing.
Neither Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul tried to dig deeper into the reasons for their actual failures and merely blamed the party's disconnect with the people and failure to effectively communicate the government's achievements to the electorate for the debacle.
The Congress chief also blamed the aggressive and polarising campaign launched by the BJP as the major reason behind the defeat. A hostile media that projected corruption in the government that blackened the face of the Congress party also played a major role in the party's defeat, according to Sonia Gandhi.
According to Congress general secretary B K Hariprasad, it was the infiltration of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh into the majority community that polarised the polity, resulting in en masse voting of Hindus in favour of the BJP.
The BJP campaign also managed to blur conventional caste lines, it was pointed out.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh, however, was honest enough to accept the fact that the UPA government's failure to curb price rise and corruption was the main reason for the party's abject failure.
The CWC special invitee Anil Shastri said Congress's communication lacked conviction, while others pointed out that it was the failure to respond effectively to the accusation of corruption levelled by the opposition that caused the rout. Some also blamed ineffective campaigns led by the Congress election coordination committee headed by senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh for the party's plight.
Some members, including P Chidambaram, raised the issue of faulty ticket distribution.
Meanwhile, reports said neither Congress president Sonia Gandhi nor her deputy Rahul Gandhi is willing to accept the role of opposition leader in the Lok Sabha and speculation is that Kamal Nath, the senior most Congress MP, may become leader of Congress in the House, provided, of course, the speaker relaxes the rules or recognises the entire UPA as a block, which has 56 MPs.
As a rule, a party to be recognised as the main opposition in the house needs a minimum 10 per cent of the strength of the House. The Congress has secured only 44 seats in the lower house this time and to be recognised as the main opposition, the party needs at least 55 seats in the 543-member house.
While the speaker can waive the requirement, there is also speculation that the AIADMK and Trinamool Congress having 37 and 34 members, respectively, may come together to claim the position of a joint opposition with a strength of 71 against the UPA's 56.