"She said the Congress may have a small strength in the Lok Sabha but it was the largest party in the Rajya Sabha."
New Delhi, May 24 - Congress president Sonia Gandhi Saturday called for drawing appropriate lessons from unprecedented setback to the party in the Lok Sabha election and said the party will work with like-minded parties in the opposition.

Addressing the first meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) after the general election, Gandhi also disapproved of party leaders venting in public their feelings about the party's loss in the polls.

Gandhi, who was unanimously re-elected CPP chairperson at the meeting, said she was asked by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to take all steps necessary to revamp the organisation at all levels.

Your inputs, your experience and your assessment of our strengths and weaknesses, rather than public acrimony, will be critical to the exercise, she said.

Party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters later that Gandhi would nominate leaders of the party in the two houses of parliament and also other office bearers of the CPP.

The Congress was reduced to its worst tally in the Lok Sabha election and could win only 44 seats. It did not win a single seat in some states.

In an apparent message to party parliamentarians, including her own son and party vice president Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi said that being in the opposition means regular attendance, more hours inside the house and more study of subjects.

It means asking more questions, raising more issues, initiating more debates, always being the vigilant watchdog and defending principles of Congress.

Rahul Gandhi, who led the party's campaign in the general election, was among the bottom 40 percent parliamentarians across all parties when it came to attendance in the 15th Lok Sabha, according to data compiled by PRS legislative research, a think tank that tracks the work of parliament.

He also participated in a few debates and did not raise a single question, according to data compiled till Feb 21.

Sonia Gandhi congratulated the newly-elected Lok Sabha members and said that although victorious, she was pained about the larger defeat of the party.

We have to individually and collectively draw appropriate lessons from this unprecedented setback, she said.

That there was widespread anger against us which we failed to adequately gauge is now obvious. We must understand why this was so and take necessary corrective measures, she said.

She said the CWC meeting earlier this week was only a beginning in the process of introspection and the party needs to reflect more.

Your role in that exercise will be crucial and I invite you to participate in it in the days ahead, she said.

Seeking to boost the morale of party workers, Gandhi said the Congress secured 10.69 crore votes compared to 17.16 crore received by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

She said though the party got almost 62 percent votes compared to that of the BJP, its tally was less than 15 percent. The BJP won 282 seats.

She said people who voted for the Congress believed in our idea of India and fundamental values of our party - parliamentary democracy, secularism, inclusive development and social justice.

We have to work hard to recapture the larger support base that the Congress traditionally enjoyed.

She said party workers carried the Congress flag throughout the country and worked tirelessly during the election.

Gandhi slammed the BJP and some other parties and said they opposed some legislations due to cussedness and outright political opportunism.

You will recall that the BJP propounded the infamous theory that obstructing parliament is a legitimate parliamentary device.

Gandhi said the party will see what will be the attitude of the new government to pending legislations of the UPA government and noted that the results should not be allowed to negate the very far reaching and enduring achievements of the Congress-led government over the past decade.

She said the Congress may have a small strength in the Lok Sabha but it was the largest party in the Rajya Sabha.

Together, the CPP can function as a formidable opposition. And we can and will work together with like-minded parties to strengthen the watchful role of parliamentary opposition.

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