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Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 21, 2012
With the Assembly elections throwing up a mixed bag for the Congress, the party is now gearing up for next year’s polls in six states ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

As the first step, Congress president Sonia Gandhi may go for a major organisational reshuffle before the three-day Jaipur party meet from January 18. Rahul Gandhi, who heads the 2014 campaign panel, could be elevated to the number two position.

The elections in Karnataka, Tripura, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are seen as the semi-finals before the 2014 polls.

Apart from ensuring unity in its rank and file, Gandhi would also focus on strengthening the party in these six states — five of which would witness a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP.

The Congress is expected to improve its performance in Karnataka, with the ruling BJP marred by an internal crisis triggered by former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa – a powerful Lingayat leader who quit the party and floated his own regional outfit.

However, it remains to be seen if Yeddyurappa’s move would help the Congress oust the BJP from its only southern turf — considering that the Keshubhai Patel situation in Gujarat did not help a lot.

In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Congress has been out of power since 2003. The primary task for the party leadership would be to prevent a repeat of the Gujarat debacle in these states.

Retaining Delhi and Rajasthan would be a big test for the Congress while a victory in MP and Chhattisgarh would tide well for the 2014 polls.