New Delhi: The Congress is gearing up for Assembly polls this year in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Till the 2024 general elections, there are elections in Karnataka, MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in 2023.
In Gujarat and Rajasthan all the Lok Sabha MPs were elected on a BJP ticket and the Congress was wiped out, while from Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal and Chhattisgarh the Congress presence in the Lok Sabha is very low so the state elections are crucial for the Congress till 2023.
For the Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the Congress has appointed senior observers for both the states. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has been appointed a senior observer in Gujarat and Bhupesh Baghel, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, will look after Himachal Pradesh.
Gehlot will be assisted by T.S. Singh Deo, a minister in Chhattisgarh and Milind Deora, former Mumbai Congress chief. Baghel will be helped by former Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan Sachin Pilot and Punjab Congress legislative party leader Partap Singh Bajwa. Both the states go to the polls this year.
State in-charges of both the states, Raghu Sharma of Gujarat and Rajeev Shukla of Himachal Pradesh, have been asked to give more time to the states.
Recently, the Congress appointed seven working presidents for its Gujarat unit. Following a social engineering strategy, each of these leaders represents a caste. The Congress is also attempting to send a message to upper caste voters that the party is trying to rise above its dedicated SC/ST/OBC vote bank and cares for them too.
The central Congress leadership in Delhi has asked its Gujarat unit to refrain from making personal attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi but to raise people’s issues and target BJP policies in the run-up to the Assembly polls, sources said.
The party will organise “Mehangai Chaupal” interactive meetings at mandis, retail markets and other locations in all assembly constituencies from August 17 to 23.
The party will print booklets and will distribute them to all state organisations and they will then translate and print them in the local language and distribute them to the people.
The Congress task force has met the Gujarat leaders several times and asked them to prepare unitedly for the Assembly polls to dethrone the BJP which has been ruling the state for the past 27 years. As part of the strategy, the party will highlight the state government’s failure particularly during Covid and post-Covid.
Notably, the Congress has witnessed some high profile exits in the recent past besides suffering a setback in local body elections. Hardik Patel, who had spearheaded the Patidar protest, has changed loyalties and joined the BJP. In the last Assembly polls, the party won 77 seats but many MLAs have switched sides since then.
The Gujarat Congress had won a record breaking 149 seats with a 55.55 per cent vote share in the 1985 Assembly elections, while the BJP could bag only 11 seats with a 14.96 per cent vote share.
In the 2012 elections, the Congress’s vote share declined to 38.93 per cent, whereas the BJP’s vote share jumped to 47.85 per cent.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s threat to the Congress has also been figuring in the discussions, the Congress is trying hard not to let its vote bank be weaned away by the AAP. Congress state in-charge Raghu Sharma says there is no threat from the AAP and attacked the state government over unemployment and inflation. “Recently in Gondal a youth committed suicide, there are 5 lakh vacancies in the state but the government is not starting any recruitment process,” he says.
The Congress wants to focus on people-centric issues and it is focusing on inflation and unemployment as big political issues. In early 2023 the Congress will face elections in Karnataka. Recently Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited the state on party leader Siddaramaiah’s birthday and asked the faction led by DK Sivakumar to work jointly.
In MP the Congress is in the opposition. In Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh the party is in power; in Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh are working in tandem but in Rajasthan the issue of Chief Ministership is being raked up by Sachin Pilot who is a claimant for the top post and in Chhattisgarh the TS Singh Deo issue has not been settled. Sources close to him say that, “the high command should decide either way and settle the issue.”