This time around, the Gujarat unit of the Congress seems determined to end factionalism to put up a united front against the formidable BJP government led by chief minister Narendra Modi in the assembly elections in December.
State Congress leaders representing at least five different factions have so far campaigned aggressively, highlighting the failures of the more-than-a-decade old Modi regime.
Keen to focus on local issues, they are wary of inviting national leaders to campaign lest their remarks on the Gujarat riots and secularism hurt the party’s prospects in this highly polarised and communally sensitive state.
“This time, factionalism in the Congress is apparently less than in the past but one has to see whether it is able to select candidates based on winnability as the sole criterion,” veteran journalist and long-time Congress observer Devendra Patel said.
State Congress chief Arjun Modhvadia claimed, “We will exercise utmost caution in selection of candidates this time.” He said candidates would be selected by the party high command based on recommendations of the screening committee consisting of union ministers CP Joshi and RPN Singh.
The last assembly polls won by the Congress in Gujarat was way back in 1985 when its KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim) formula led it to a record victory, winning 149 of the 182 seats.
In the past two decades, however, the party has been hit by intense factionalism that has been the root cause of its failure to regain popular support.
Till the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the party had five major factions – the Madhavsinh Solanki group represented by his son and union minister Bharatsinh Solanki, the Chimanbhai Patel group represented by his son Sidharth Patel, the Amarsinh Chaudhary group represented by his son and union minister Tushar Chaudhary, the Shankersinh Vaghela faction led by himself and the original Congress group consisting of leaders such as current party president Arjun Modhvadia.