New Delhi: Asserting that it has secured a moral victory in Gujarat, the Congress today said it may have lost a front "by a whisker" but not the war and will take on the BJP in assembly elections due next year.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who led a spirited campaign in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home turf, took to Twitter saying his party accepts the verdict and thanked the people of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh "for their love". He expressed gratitude to Congress workers saying they had fought anger with dignity.
Congratulating the BJP, the party said, "However we aren't taking off our gloves just yet; see you on the campaign trail in 2018!"
The states that will go to polls in 2018 are Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.
AICC general secretary incharge of Gujarat Ashok Gehlot, while addressing a press conference said, "whatever the results, it is a moral victory for the Congress after the partys campaign under the leadership Rahul Gandhi"
As election results showed BJP heading for victory in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "The Congress party accepts the verdict of the people and congratulates the new governments in both states. I thank the people of Gujarat and Himachal with all my heart for the love they showed me."
"My Congress brothers and sisters, you have made me very proud. You are different than those you fought because you fought anger with dignity. You have demonstrated to everyone that the Congress? greatest strength is its decency and courage".
Congress communications incharge Randeep Surjewala termed it a victory for the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
"We may have lost one front by a whisker, but not the war, as we won the hearts of 6.5 crore people of Gujarat," he sdaid.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said "it is a moral defeat for the BJP".
Ahmed, who is Sonia Gandhis political secretary, said Rahul Gandhi received "a big response" from the public during his public rallies. "Whatever be the result, Rahul ji attracted more crowds than the Prime Minister," he told PTI.
Patel accused the ruling party of trying to polarise people during the high voltage election in the state and misusing money power and local administration to ensure victory.
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the Congress has returned a morale boosting performance in Gujarat under Mr Rahul Gandhi.
"What a victory! In Gujarat, the winner limped across the finish line with a young sprinter close on his heels."
"The battle is now joined for five states in 2018...There is an electoral victory and there is a political victory. Need I say who is the political victor in Gujarat."
Surjewala also said, "Rahul Gandhi has won the battle by winning the hearts of people and have given a befitting reply to those who spoke about Congress-mukt bharat."
He said Rahul Gandhi has put the politics of development and issues-based politics at the centre-stage and that was the partys aim.
"Rahul ji has put politics of development at the centrestage. Modi ji who did not utter a word on development in the Gujarat poll campaign had to finally recognize in his address today that issues and development are the only way forward.
"Politics of development should be the only way in this country. And Congress party and its president Rahul Gandhi have proved it," the Congress leader said.
Surjewala said the "prime minister lost the Unjha assembly seat under which his hometown Vadnagar falls".
He also said that all Congress defectors lost as so did the six ministers in the outgoing BJP government who handled the ministries of tribal affairs, agriculture, power, drinking water for "denying public welfare" schemes to public.
"There is a lesson here for the BJP. People have voted against arrogance and to humble down the arrogance of the prime minister and BJP chief Amit Shah," he said.
Surjewala pointed out that this is the lowest count for the BJP post-1995 and while the Congress won only in 17 seats during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, its tally has risen to 82. The Congress had won 61 seats in the last assembly polls. There are 182 seats in Gujarat Assembly.
The Congress leader also lauded the role of emerging leaders like Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakore, saying they championed the pain of people and "we consider it our duty to espouse their cause".
"The Congress Party extends a huge thank you to the people of Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat for having faith in us and giving us their vote. Our congratulations to the Bharatiya Janta Party. However we arent taking off our gloves just yet; see you on the campaign trail in 2018!," the party tweeted.
On its loss in Himachal Pradesh, party general secretary Sushilkumar Shinde said the state normally elects a government of the BJP and the Congress alternately.
He said when the Congress started its campagn it was thought that the party would settled at 7-8 seats but it unitedly put up a good fight and secured more 20 seats while the BJPs chief ministerial candidate and its state party president lost.
"We were able to build confidence among people and convince them that the Congress will always remain with them," he said.