Congress said the outcome of Lok Sabha polls would be a "collective responsibility" of party leaders, a statement seen as an attempt to buffer Rahul Gandhi from criticism as a slew of exit polls projected a dismal show by the UPA.
Asked if Rahul, who was the face of the Congress campaign, would be responsible for the results, Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said, "Rahul Gandhi is not in the government. He is Congress vice-president, number two after Sonia Gandhi. The result will be a collective responsibility of all the leaders."
Discounting the exit poll projections, Ahmed said the results would be much better for Congress than was being predicted and "everyone will share credit".
The remark on "collective responsibility" is significant because the entire election campaign revolved around the Congress vice-president and it was seen as a 'Modi vs Rahul' contest. Congress , however, had not named Rahul the party's prime ministerial candidate.
Congress leaders yesterday threw a protective shield around Rahul Gandhi against the predicted rout in the elections and went on to say that he will remain their leader for the future.
Rubbishing the exit poll predictions which gave Congress very poor numbers, Khurshid, the minister for external affairs, said: "Be that as it may, he (Rahul) is our leader. We repose faith in him. He will lead us from the front, he will tell us if something has to be told and something has to be advised."
Kamal Nath, urban development minister, also rejected suggestions that a likely poor show in the elections will be a reflection on Rahul's leadership. He said the Manmohan Singh-led government was not able to convey to the people about its programmes and all the good work it was doing.