The Congress considers a victory imperative in at least three of the five states where assembly elections are due if it wants to add to the demoralisation and confusion in the ranks of the BJP and retain its psychological hold over its UPA allies. Elections are slated in Congress-ruled Punjab, Uttaranchal, Manipur and Goa and SP-ruled Uttar Pradesh.
In Punjab, leaders claim to have wrought a change of impression among the people and workers that the Congress has a fighting chance to retain power. They count the positives: as the first Prime Minister from the state, Manmohan Singh is expected to boost the party's prospects; Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's yatras are drawing crowds; Singh, deputy chief minister RK Bhattal and PCC chief SS Dullo are trying to put up a show of unity. And if some legislators are denied tickets, they would be assured of being accommodated in prominent positions after the polls to prevent them from turning rebels.
It's a bleak scenario in Uttaranchal where ND Tiwari has been a reluctant chief minister for the last two years, displayed a lack of interest in governance and been at loggerheads with his PCC chief Harish Rawat. Unless the BJP slips up, the Congress has little chance of returning to power in the hill state.
Manipur and Goa are seen as numbers while counting victories and defeats. No matter which combination wins, the small size of the assemblies carries with it the seeds of instability as legislators sometimes move en bloc from one party to another.
In UP, the best-case scenario for the Congress is to see a badly fractured verdict in which it can play the role of a kingmaker. And its nightmare? That the party, which is way behind the SP, the BSP and the BJP, might even lose ground to smaller formations, like the Apna Dal, which are sprouting in the state.
Notwithstanding the clamour for a more intensive, extensive and visible role for Rahul Gandhi to revive the party in UP, the Amethi MP has yet to reveal his mind. But he has been interacting with the eight zonal in charges of the state, meeting party workers from a clutch of assembly segments and poring over the profile of the constituency and potential candidates.
Then, there's Gujarat towards the end of the year where the Congress has not yet been able to signal that it is in a position to take on Chief Minister Narendra Modi who has polarised the state's polity. On Wednesday, a group of Congress legislators and MPs from Gujarat met Sonia with two major complaints: one, some UPA ministers praised Modi making things difficult for them; and two, the failure of Congress ministers to interact with party workers while visiting the state deprived them of a chance to show-case the party's performance and pro-people initiatives.
The Congress chief is scheduled to visit the tribal areas in the state in mid-January and then again during the state unit's programme to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha movement.
Unlike the uncertainty over the Congress' performance in these elections, the party is confident of storming back to power in Karnataka and Jharkhand if these governments fall because of their inherent instability and contradiction.
Efforts are on to boost the party's organisational base by recruiting leaders with a base among different communities. These include, for instance, the inductions of Siddaramaiah, an OBC leader, dalit leader Srinivasa Prasad and tribal leader Shashi Kumar into the Congress in Karnataka.