Hours after rejecting reports of Congress president Rahul Gandhi offering to resign from his post, the grand old party confirmed that the party chief requested to step down but the Congress Working Committee (CWC) rejected it.

Addressing the media on Saturday afternoon in New Delhi, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala read a statement issued by the CWC in which the party said that the 48-year-old was requested to continue at the helm “in these challenging times”.

“The Congress president offered to resign but CWC leaders unanimously refused to entertain it and requested him to lead the party in these challenging times. The CWC also requested the president for a complete overhaul and restructure of the party at every level,” the party said.

The Congress president’s offer of resignation came after a miserable show of the grand old party in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. Yet the CWC decided against it despite the fact that Gandhi lost the family’s traditional bastion Amethi to BJP leader Smriti Irani by a margin of over 55,000 votes.

The Congress chief, however, managed to enter Parliament with a record victory from Kerala’s Wayanad.

The CWC noted that India faces a number of challenges as a new government comes to power. The party cited examples of rising oil prices, stability of the banking sector, stability of NBFC, job growth, agricultural crisis, integrity of institutions, and attacks on the country’s social fabric.

“CWC believes that these issues must be addressed by the next government,” the party said.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad who was present at the press conference said, “If anyone can lead the party, it is Rahul Gandhi.”

“In a democracy winning or losing keep happening but providing leadership is a different matter. He gave a leadership, one which is visible – maybe less on TV but very evident among public. We’ve accepted our defeat but it was a defeat of numbers and not ideology,” he added.

Former Defence Minister AK Antony said that the party’s performance cannot be called “disastrous”.

“It was not a disastrous performance but we could not rise up to expectations,” Antony said in response to a question, adding, that the “party will go through details on all issues”.

The party won only 52 seats in the Lok Sabha elections 2019, only eight more from 2014. Congress’ debacle also meant that the Lok Sabha will be without a Leader of Opposition for a second time as no party won 55 seats required to be called an Opposition.

Earlier today Surjewala shot down reports stating Gandhi had offered to resign, terming them as “incorrect”

The CWC met on Saturday to discuss the reasons for the party’s dismal performance across the country in the Lok Sabha elections 2019.

Besides Gandhi, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi, senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram, RPN Singh, PL Punia, Motilal Vora, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge were present.

Also present were Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh and former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah.

But Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath skipped the meeting. Reports say that he explained his absence citing the need to protect Congress MLAs in Madhya Pradesh.

Only four of the 23 CWC members won in the just concluded elections – Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Gaurav Gogoi and A Chella Kumar.

Twelve CWC members lost the polls, including heavyweights like Mallikarjun Kharge, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Raghuveer Singh Meena, Jitin Prasada, Deepender Hooda, Sushmita Dev, KH Muniyappa and Arun Yadav.

Seven CWC members did not participate in the Lok Sabha elections this year.

Congress won only three seats in three states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – where it formed governments in December 2018.

A series of resignations of top Congress leaders came in on Friday.

Congress Uttar Pradesh in-charge Raj Babbar resigned from the post, along with campaign committee chief HK Patil, Odisha party chief Niranjan Patnaik and Amethi District Congress President Yogendra Misra.

Read More: State Congress leaders in Odisha, Karnataka, UP offer to resign following LS poll debacle

The BJP-led NDA returned to power with a massive majority of 351 votes, of which 303 were of the saffron party alone. The verdict firmly established Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stature as a dynamic leader, as he became only the third PM and the first non-Congress PM to return with majority after completing a full five-year term.

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