Elections round the corner, but Gujarat Congress lacks a strategy

Elections round the corner, but Gujarat Congress lacks a strategy
With only months to go for the assembly election in Gujarat, the opposition Congress has yet to put a cohesive strategy in place.

While a section of Congress leaders has been fuelling a media speculation about poll strategist Prashant Kishore and his team being in talks with the party high command for an election assignment in the state, sources in the know denied any such possibility.

Political observers said talks about Kishore taking over the election campaign strategy would help keep the otherwise depleting morale of Congress workers high for the time being and hence the speculation was being peddled with enthusiasm. A veteran Congress leader told ET that the state unit had been open about the issue, but it was up to the high command to take a call.

However, not everyone is on the same page on this, as on several other issues. A former president of the Gujarat Congress said the talks of Kishore coming to Gujarat, if not fructified, would only harm the morale of the workers. Making it clear that not all the leaders were in the loop on any planning on this, he said lack of cohesion within ranks had now started showing in public.

The Congress took almost two years to reconstitute the state committee in Gujarat and finally appointed OBC leader Jagdish Thakore as the state president and Sukhram Rathwa as the leader of opposition in December last year, replacing Amit Chavda and Paresh Dhanani, respectively. Chavda and Dhanani had resigned from their positions at least three times after three poll debacles before finally being relieved of their charges.

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However, the change has managed to achieve precious little for the party as the state unit continues to look at the high command for its sustenance rather than contesting at the local level.

For example, on Wednesday, the Congress Seva Dal initiated Azadi Gaurav Yatra, a foot march from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad to Rajghat in Delhi. However, the posters it put up along the way had only the faces of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, along with Thakore, Rathwa and state party in charge Raghu Sharma. While the march started from Sabarmati Ashram, none of the posters on the route to Gandhinagar even had an image of Mahatma Gandhi on them.

“This was a chance for the party to remind people of the great contributions this party had made towards the freedom struggle and developing India after freedom,” said Mahesh Pandya, an Ahmedabad-based analyst. “While they (Congress) cry an ocean that the BJP is usurping Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi, when it comes to reminding people of the reality, they put out images of Rahul Gandhi, who has become synonymous with Congress’ electoral debacles over the last decade,” he observed.

“It is incomprehensible as to how they can expect the voter to associate themselves with a losing brand,” Pandya said. “Who is Raghu Sharma and how many Gujaratis know him or for that matter what is the role of Rahul Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi in India’s freedom struggle? Celebrating them in posters for so called ‘Azadi Gaurav Yatra’ only bolsters the BJP allegation of family rule in Congress pushing it further from the voters,” he added.

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