New Delhi: Ruling out change of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the wake of the electoral debacle, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday ascribed wrong selection of candidates, too many leaders and organisational weaknesses as among key factors that contributed to the party's dismal performance.
   
Gandhi, who met a large number of Congress office bearers individually at the AICC headquarters here, dismissed the possibility of the poll defeat "damaging" the UPA government at the Centre.

Emerging from the nearly three-hour interactive session, the Congress President conceded that the election results have a lesson for the party which she would discuss with party leaders and told partymen to "pull up the socks" for the coming electoral battles.

A number of states are going to the polls which include Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh this year and Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh next year. Lok Sabha polls are due in middle of 2014.

"Congress party has got support below its expectations. We accept it with all humility," Gandhi told reporters.

When asked whether the poor election results will affect the UPA Government's stability, Gandhi put up a brave front, saying she does not feel that the results will "damage the UPA Government."

"The question does not arise," she shot back on the possibility of the Prime Minister stepping down and Congress choosing another leader for the post.

Asked as to who would be the Congress candidate for Prime Minister in the 2014 elections, Sonia Gandhi sidestepped the question merely saying, "This is 2012".

When asked whether the party failed to fare well in U P because there was lack of leadership, Gandhi said "rather than lack of leaders, too many leaders that is our problem".

In UP, people were angry with BSP and they saw SP as the alternative, she reasoned.

To persistent questions on who would be the party's prime ministerial face for the next Lok Sabha polls, Gandhi, looking relaxed, said, "2014 is a long way off".

The Congress chief was asked whether she anticipated more pinpricks from allies like Trinamool Congress in the wake of its poor showing in the assembly elections.

 "We will continue to keep in touch with coalition partners as well as the opposition on issues which are beneficial to the people (I hope) they will understand and they will support."

Asked whether wrong choice of candidates was the reason for the defeat of Congress in UP, Gandhi conceded that it is one of the reasons as it resulted in rebel candidates setting themselves up. "We will have to examine. I will have to talk to my colleagues," she said.

To a specific question whether Congress has failed in U P and at what level the failure lay, she said, "Rahul has already told you about UP. Our organisation is weak in U P, that is the main problem."

Asked whether people's anger on the issue of price rise has led to the result, she said "maybe. Price rise may also had an impact on the elections."

She however hastened to add that the causes of the defeat needed to be examined in detail.

On defeat of the party in the family pocketborough of Amethi and Raebareli,she said that there have been such defeats earlier also and it was not for the first time.

 "It seems people were not that happy with our sitting legislators. Those candidates which were changed in Amethi have won," she said.

 "Every election is a lesson for us, whether we win or lose," she said adding that the reasons for the party's poor show will be examined.

On the results in Punjab, which saw the Akali-BJP combine coming to power again, she said that Manpreet Badal's Peoples' Party of Punjab damaged the Congress in 23 seats. "More than damaging the Akalis, they damaged us," she said.

(Agencies)