As polling ends, Cong sure it played the cards right | india | Hindustan Times
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As polling ends, Cong sure it played the cards right

india Updated: Mar 01, 2012 23:36 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi

Congress-general-secretary-Rahul-Gandhi-addresses-an-election-rally-at-Muradnagar-Gaziabad-in-Uttar-Pradesh-PTI-Photo

At the end of campaigning for the seventh and last phase of the UP assembly elections on Thursday, the Congress appears confident of significantly improving its tally in the country's most populous and politically important state.

In the 2007 elections, the party had won 22 out of the total 403 seats and secured 8% of the votes.

"We will not only increase our seats substantially this time but the vote share as well," said senior leader Mohan Prakash.

Congress leaders are hopeful that the social engineering their party has worked out in the 2012 elections will pay rich dividends.

The focus was on forming a broad social coalition, comprising Dalits, upper castes, OBCs, MBCs and Muslims, who had moved away from the Congress since 1989 when it was voted out of power in the state.

Party managers accordingly crafted seat-specific strategies.

"We will win maximum seats from the reserved constituencies and we will be the single largest party in UP," said Ashok Tanwar, the party's young Dalit face who, along with Barabanki MP PL Punia, was given the charge of 85 constituencies reserved for Dalits.

But all eyes are on first-time voters. Some estimates have put the number at around one crore and political observers have described them as the "decisive factor" in this poll.

The Congress claims to have the support of the major chunk of these new voters who have been "swayed" by Rahul Gandhi's charisma.

"Rahulji represents the aspirations of the youth," Tanwar said.

Prakash attributed the high voter turnout this time to Gandhi's efforts and relentless campaign.

"It was Rahul Gandhi versus others. He had set the agenda for elections."