Has the Congress lost Gu­jarat al­ready?

Tehelka - - MAHARASHTRA -

WITH ASSEM­BLY polls round the cor­ner, the Congress has upped its ante in Gu­jarat. Congress Pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi re­cently ad­dressed a farmer-in­ten­sive rally in Ra­jkot, talk­ing about the ben­e­fits given by the Congress-led UPA gov­ern­ment to the state.

How­ever, the ques­tion re­mains: In a state dom­i­nated by one politi­cian for over a decade, does the Congress have a set game­plan? Party lead­ers in Gu­jarat make the cus­tom­ary claims of be­ing con­fi­dent of a strong show. Elec­tion cam­paign­ing and visit by na­tional lead­ers are be­ing planned and the se­lec­tion of can­di­dates is also in full swing.

Un­for­tu­nately for the Congress, the rules for pub­lic dis­course are be­ing set by Chief Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi. Congress lead­ers seem to be merely re­spond­ing to his al­le­ga­tions. Be it the is­sue of So­nia Gandhi’s for­eign trav­els or her med­i­cal ex­penses, Modi has slammed the Congress on ev­ery front. He has even chal­lenged the PM to come to Gu­jarat. The pat­tern in all this: Modi leads and oth­ers fol­low him.

In her maiden rally, So­nia Gandhi skirted all con­tro­ver­sial sub­jects and con­cen­trated on the prob­lems faced by farm­ers and fish­er­men. But these find no res­o­nance ei­ther in the Gu­jarat Congress or among the peo­ple. The only hope for the Congress is that Modi might not do too well in the ru­ral ar­eas. But bank­ing blindly on the BJP not far­ing well is, at best, wish­ful think­ing, and is not go­ing to help mat­ters for the Congress.

Congress cadres in Gu­jarat are a fast-dis­ap­pear­ing race, par­tic­u­larly at the grass­roots level. It is al­most as if the party has re­signed to the fact that there is no hope of a vic­tory. It might not even be in a po­si­tion to match the cam­paign un­leashed by Modi. The party has not yet de­cided to project a leader in Gu­jarat, though it of­fi­cially says that a chief min­is­te­rial can­di­date is al­ways de­cided af­ter the polls.

For any po­lit­i­cal party to be in the reck­on­ing, it needs to con­vince vot­ers of its leader who can take on the op­po­si­tion. In Gu­jarat, if the Congress wants to do that, it will have to re­fuel cadres at the grass­roots level. Ne­go­ti­a­tions with some smaller par­ties are still go­ing on. But we’ll have to wait and see how it goes. If the Congress needs your sup­port af­ter the elec­tions, will you ex­tend it? This is hy­po­thet­i­cal at the mo­ment. We will have to as­sess how things un­fold in the days to come.

Hand pass The is­sues raised by So­nia are not res­onat­ing with the peo­ple

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