The Congress intends to play the "Jinnah" card to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the assembly elections in Gujarat in late 2007. Taking a cue from Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s "Mian Musharraf" campaign against them in the 2002 assembly polls, Congress leaders intend to make an election issue of the paeans that BJP leader LK Advani had sung for Mohammad Ali Jinnah when he visited Pakistan in 2005.
The party pulled out its "Jinnah" card almost in self-defence when it found that one of its most challenging tasks in the run-up to the polls was to change the mindset of its workers, supporters and ordinary people who continue to read the politics of the heavily polarised state through the prism of communalism.
At party meetings and press conferences Congress leaders are often asked whether Sonia Gandhi would launch her election campaign from Godhra, the vortex of the communal riots in 2002.
The Congress’ rejoinder: "She will start the campaign from Godhra if BJP leader LK Advani launches a yatra from Rajkot, the birthplace of Jinnah’s ancestors, to Lahore."
While the attack is meant to re-ignite the resentment among the BJP workers who are still upset with Advani’s remarks on Jinnah, it is also provides local Congress leaders with an argument when they are faced with queries that reflect the heavy polarisation in the state.
Central leaders are often asked by local functionaries why the state Congress lacks a leader who can strut around like Modi and why they cannot openly seek Afzal Guru’s hanging. It was left for the central leadership to provide the counter argument. In the first case, the issue was not Modi but following the principles of Gandhi and in the second, the matter lay in the domain of the Court.
And for those who are sceptical of a Congress victory unless there is a wave, there is a piece of advise: focus on propagating the Gandhian ideology, creating a wave and exploiting the differences in the BJP even if the Patel community, which continues to be upset with the saffron party for removing Keshubhai Patel as chief minister, has not responded to the Congress so far.