After president polls, Congress to focus on Gujarat Assembly elections

Mallikarjun Kharge will preside over a meeting of the Central Election Committee to shortlist potential candidates.

October 22, 2022 03:30 pm | Updated 06:52 pm IST - New Delhi:

Newly elected Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge in New Delhi. File

Newly elected Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Hours after taking over as the Congress president on October 26, Mallikarjun Kharge will preside over a meeting of the Central Election Committee to shortlist potential candidates for the Gujarat Assembly elections.

Under pressure to dispel the notion that the Congress has conceded space to the Aam Admi Party (AAP), the party is ready to step up its campaign.

The party is also working out the logistics to rope Rahul Gandhi in the campaign even though nothing has been finalized yet.

Mr Gandhi, who has not left the Bharat Jodo Yatra route since it started on September 7, is expected to be in Delhi during the Diwali break and then for Mr Kharge’s taking charge.

“We definitely want Rahul ji to campaign in Gujarat and we are working on a plan. But it can’t be a padayatra as we want him to cover as many areas as possible within a limited time,” said a senior leader who is also part of the panel that is shortlisting potential candidates. The screening panel has already had six rounds of meetings to discuss constituency-wise candidates.

With the presidential election out of its way, the Congress is now focussing on Gujarat elections. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who was credited for the party’s impressive performance in the 2017 Assembly polls after it had won 77 seats and had stopped the BJP at 99 seats, spent two days in the State for a ground assessment.

During his visit on October 17 and 18, Mr Gehlot also met leaders of the Bharatiya Tribal Party and the Nationalist Congress Party, both of whom could be potential allies.

The party’s strategy seems to be focussing on the rural areas where the karty had done well in the last Assembly elections too.

Of the 182 Assembly seats in Gujarat, the Congress’ weakest seats are the 55 urban seats. In the 2017 Assembly elections, BJP has swept the urban areas, winning as many as 46 urban seats. That’s why the emergence of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) is being closely monitored by both, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.

“Everyone has been talking about AAP in referrence to us. But they can impact the BJP in the urban areas as they hardly have workers in rural areas,”said the leader quoted above.

On Friday, addressing a press conference in Delhi, AICC’s Gujarat in-charge Raghu Sharma claimed that the BJP too is not in a good shape.

“Going by the frequent long visits of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to Gujarat, it is evident that all is not well with the BJP in their home state,”Mr Sharma said.

He listed out inflation, unemployment, COVID mismanagement, protests in the tribal belt over a river-linking project as some of the issues that the party would raise.

“I can say that we will win 125 seats and form the government,”he said, adding the Aam Admi Party is functioning as ‘B-teams’ of the BJP to split Congress’ vote.

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