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Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, October 27, 2012
As part of its poll strategy, the central leadership of the Congress has decided to restrict its role and occasionally campaign in select areas across Gujarat.

Accordingly, state Congress leaders have been at the forefront of the party's election campaign so far, countering the frequent and stinging attacks of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has so far addressed only one rally in Rajkot on October 3 and is expected to address a few more in north and central Gujarat even as the local leaders have demanded a public meeting each at Ahmedabad and Surat also.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to address two election meetings while Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi will campaign for 4-5 days in the state, especially in Kutch and the tribal regions. The two-phased polling to the 182-member assembly is scheduled for December 13 and 17.

"These meetings and rallies will take place after mid-November once the process of filing of nomination papers begins," a Congress leader said.

But the real test for the party will begin once the ticket distribution is over. Keeping its flock together and restricting the number of rebels will be an uphill task for its leadership.

Sources said the state Congress unit was using all its resources to prevent the BJP's attempts to lure its leaders ahead of the polls. The state leadership has been repeatedly issuing appeals to its leaders to forget internal differences.

The appeal also came from Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel, who urged party leaders and workers to give a strong fight to the opposition.

"No opposition can defeat the Congress. However, there are insiders who are responsible for the poor performance in past elections," Patel told partymen in Bharuch on Wednesday.