Exclusive: Rahul’s Plan to End Congress’ Losing Streak in Gujarat
As the countdown to the Gujarat elections begin, this is the message on which the Congress is building its “Mission Gujarat” strategy. A high profile source close to Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has shared the highlights of this plan with The Quint.
- A new face of ‘Gujarati identity’
- A proactive role for Rahul Gandhi
- A manifesto for the public
- Performance evaluations of the CM
- Focus on small businesses, women and youth
- GST to be strong poll issue in cities
- Threat of polarisation
In the past 20 years, the Congress has never been this enthusiastic about elections in Gujarat. But this time, Gandhi has campaigned constantly in the state, and there are meetings at the party headquarters to brainstorm the smallest of details.
According to exclusive details The Quint has accessed, Gandhi’s focus will be on three specific things in Gujarat:
- Business acumen
- Network of small and medium sized businesses
- Women’s organisational ability
This is essentially an attempt to reinvent Prime Minister Modi’s favourite rally catchphrase, “Gujarati Asmita”. Modi had earlier used it with reference to the social and historical fabric of Gujarat, but Gandhi has lent it a more economic face, and that too without naming anyone.
According to the party, these three qualities are part of Gujarat’s DNA. As Chief Minister of the state, Modi merely used these, but the Congress party will strengthen them further.
For example, there has been no new plan for the women working for Amul in the last three decades. The Congress claims they will set new targets for them.
Rahul Takes Reponsiblity
Sources close to the Congress vice president claim that he has taken personal responsibility to make Congress a serious contender in the state before voting commences.
The party believes that its graph in Gujarat is rising, and it has a 50-50 shot against the BJP. People are angry with the BJP, but they are not looking at the Congress as a serious option as yet. Given this situation, Gandhi has vowed to change things in their favour, be it through campaigning or strategising.
Gandhi has made it clear that the party manifesto won’t be handled like always. According to the source, the Congress’ aim this time is to highlight the message that it won’t be a party’s government, rather it’ll be the people’s government overseen by the Congress party.
Hence, the state unit of the party has been clearly directed to go out and ask the people what they want in the manifesto – an idea that seems to have been inspired by the Aam Admi Party.
Rahul's Formula for Ticket Disrtribution
According to insiders, the Gujarat unit of the Congress is one of the worst when it comes to infighting and ticket distribution. But this time, sources say, everything is being dealt with in a very systematic manner. In order to preempt any discontent, losing contenders for tickets are already being told that they will be given different responsibilities in the eventual government.
On being asked about the recent exit of senior leader Shanker Vaghela, The Quint’s source claimed that it was a fortuitous move for the Congress, and that Gandhi himself was behind it.
Who Will Be the Chief Minister?
Declaring its Chief Ministerial candidate hasn’t been a Congress tradition, but this time the party wants to break away from previous norms, or rather it doesn’t want to shy away from new experiments.
Sources told The Quint that Gandhi is overseeing an evaluation of the candidates, and it won’t be a surprise if the CM candidate is announced before polling.
GST – a Poll Weapon in the Cities
It is said that the BJP’s seat count in Gujarat begins not from one, but from 51. In a state like Gujarat, with 42 percent of urban population, the BJP has a stronghold on 62 urban assembly seats. Issues like water, electricity, farmers, tribals, etc, – all the ones that the Congress is targeting – don’t exist in the cities.
In the 2012 elections, BJP managed a clean sweep, winning 42 of the 46 seats in Surat, Bhavnagar, Rajkot, Varodra, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar.
This time the Congress has found a new weapon in the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. According to sources, Rahul Gandhi is confident that GST has vexed business-based cities like Surat, Rajot and Bhavnagar, and that will help carry the Congress to victory. The effects of this strategy were quite visible in his recent rallies in Rajkot and Barodra.
Employment a Challenge
Gandhi has constantly been stating in his speeches that the county needs 10 lakh new jobs, but the central government is unable to provide more than 12-15 thousand. This discrepancy in demand and supply is a source of growing anger among the youth, and Gandhi believes that the first victim of this anger will be Gujarat.
Fear of Polarisation
Despite all the strategising and brainstorming, the issue of polarisation still remains. It has been a focal point in Gujarat and helped turn the tides in BJP’s favour. According to The Quint’s sources, Gandhi is personally tense about this issue.
Polarisation can lay waste all the work and strategy, even at the last minute. On being asked about their plan for dealing with polarisation, a senior Congress leader told The Quint that the media will have to come up with a soloution for this. If the media does’t feed into it, the flames (of polarisation) won’t spread, he said.
Essentially, the Congress has no strategy for dealing with polarisation, and it is something they are concerned about.
(This article is a translation. It was originally published on QuintHindi.)
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