Is the Congress really interested in winning in Gujarat? This may be a strange thing to ask given that it is a political party about to fight a long and expensive election campaign in that state. But it is a serious question.
My friend Shahid Latif, editor of Urdu daily Inquilab has an
interesting view. He asks if it's possible that Narendra Modi is being deliberately given a walkover by the Congress. Shahid's view is that this is to keep an enemy alive. He thinks it's similar to President George W Bush's pursuit of war against Muslim nations, in the absence of America's Cold War enemy.
Whether or not this line of thinking is correct, it is a fact that intelligent Muslims like Shahid are considering if it is the case. The logic is that Congress needs someone to demonise, in this case Modi, so that its own, slightly dodgy, reputation for secularism remains intact. And that its corruption and lack of competence can be masked by the occasional attack on Modi.
In the absence of a Modi-like figure, the spotlight would again turn to the Congress.
This may not be the case, but to me it certainly seems true that the Congress appears to be quite casual about a state that the rest of the nation views with deep interest.
To give an example of this, we should compare the manner in which the two parties have gone about their campaign. All opinion polls indicate that the BJP will win and probably sweep Gujarat again. And yet it appears as if the Congress is waiting for something to happen on its own. If Sonia Gandhi is concerned about another defeat, it doesn't show.
Modi comes out and gives Congress an almost daily pasting. On Vadra, on "Maun-Mohan" and so on. How many rallies has Sonia even set aside for Gujarat? What about Rahul? Last week, I asked the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee what Sonia Gandhi's poll schedule was. I was told they had not drawn it up yet, meaning they had not been given dates from Delhi. Elections are next month, and so one would imagine Sonia Gandhi would have cleared some time for campaigning in advance. But this is apparently not the case.
The second thing is to look at the rotating door policy of its state leadership since Modi became CM. We have had Shankarsinh Vaghela, Bharatsinh Solanki, Siddharth Patel, Arjun Modhwadia and Shaktisinh Gohil. Nobody given enough time to build a defeated and totally demotivated organisation.
The third thing that we can observe is that there is no Congress attack on Modi's person. He has a wife he has separated from, for instance, but the Congress stays away from asking him questions about her. This is not to say I approve of such an attack. I don't. But the fact is that while the BJP hurls personal accusations against the Gandhis, the Congress refrains from attacking Modi on this count.
All of this leads people to wonder what the reason is that Congress allows itself to lose so easily in Gujarat. Is it because Sonia Gandhi is incompetent, because she is lazy or because she is deliberately handing over one state, Gujarat, to her greatest enemy so that she can comfortably hold on to the rest of India?
(Aakar Patel is a writer and columnist. The views expressed are personal.)
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