With former party president Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra gaining attention down south, the party is hoping its fortunes will turn north as it is eyeing 125 seats in the 182-seat Gujarat assembly election.
Congress is out of state for 27 years. In these years, its fortune in the state fluctuated like a pendulum, but mostly its aura dwindled as Prime minister Narendra Modi and Union Home minister Amit Shah saw the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reaching new heights in the state.
However, like every five years, the Grand Old Party is once again dreaming of the resurgence that seems to have eluded them all these years.
With former party president Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra gaining attention down south, the party is hoping its fortunes will turn north as it is eyeing 125 seats in the 182-seat state assembly.
In an exclusive chat with The New Indian, Raghu Sharma, who is the party in-charge of Gujarat, said, “I can say this with confidence that this time we are going to win 125 seats in Gujarat.”
Speaking about the renewed vigour, Sharma said, “This time the party is focusing on booth management and our campaign is mainly a door-to-door campaign.”
Sharma said that the party has organised big rallies, chintan shivir and tribal satyagraha abhiyaan in the tribal areas right from the north to central and south Gujarat. “We are focusing on minority-dominated seats, SC/ST-dominated seats and OBC-dominated seats. So our planning is very good this time,” he asserted.
While Gujarat has mostly seen a two-way contest, things might change this time with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) spreading its wings in the state.
The party’s top leaders, including national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and senior leader Manish Sisodia, have been canvassing extensively throughout the state.
But AAP could pose a big challenge to Congress’ fortunes – as it did in Goa and Uttarakhand – by eating into its vote share. Aware of the challenge, Sharma accused the AAP of working as team B for the BJP.
“They (Aam Aadmi Party) are working as team B of the BJP. And we say this because we have witnessed their presence in Goa and Uttarakhand, where they cut our five to six per cent votes, which was crucial to forming a government,” Sharma said.
“They only have paid workers here. Only perception matters in the media, social media, and all of these outdoor campaign activities. Paid workers are working there (in Gujarat) and they are distributing warranty cards. There is no cadre,” he noted.
While AAP had already released a list of 73 candidates for the election, Sharma said that the Congress screening committee had their meeting today. “In the Screening Committee meeting, we scrutinised all the 182 candidates for the state. On October 26, we have our CEC meeting, so hopefully, we will announce the first candidate list by the end of this month,” Sharma said.
While AAP had already trooped in Kejriwal and Sisodia, among others, and the BJP saw PM Modi and HM Shah visiting the state, the Congress said the senior party leaders would start campaigning after the festival of lights.
“After Diwali, senior leadership will participate in the campaigning process in Gujarat. They (Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra) are our leaders and they will surely campaign in the state,” Sharma added.
Before the beginning of the Bharat Jodo Yatra, former party chief Rahul Gandhi had participated in the Parivartan Sankalp Rally on September 5 in Ahmedabad.
Rahul Gandhi also made a host of promises, including free electricity, compensation for COVID-hit families, and free education if Congress forms the next government in the state. He also promised to direct his party’s focus on ending youth unemployment.