Even before the dust has settled on the Bihar elections, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has geared up for next year’s assembly elections.
Gandhi is headed for a two-day tour of Assam, where the Congress is expected to face the toughest challenge from the BJP in 2016 when four states will vote in assembly elections.
“He will go to Assam in the third week of November. He has a packed schedule in the north-eastern state where he will interact with workers as well as the local people,” said a key lieutenant of Gandhi.
Apart from Assam, the other three poll-bound states are Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal. Union territory Puducherry will also go to polls in 2016.
Gandhi’s visit to Assam assumes significance as the party has seen major defections over the past few months. Himanta Biswa Sarma, a senior minister in the Tarun Gogoi government, quit the party in August and joined the BJP. Last Friday, nine MLAs left the Congress to follow the same path.
Gandhi’s visit, aimed to boost the morale of the workers and try to cement fissures within the party ranks, comes close on the heels of the party’s stupendous performance in the Bihar elections. From having just four MLAs in 2010, the Congress bagged 27 MLAs in the Bihar elections.
For the Congress, the stakes are the highest in Kerala and Assam, where they are in power. While the party came to power in Kerala in 2011, it has been ruling Assam since 2001.
Sources in New Delhi told HT that a few weeks ago, Gandhi held a long meeting with Assam chief minister Gogoi and state Congress chief Anjan Datta in the capital to review poll preparations.
Meanwhile, the BJP is targetting the north-eastern state as its ‘best chance’ to bag a state in next year’s assembly polls, according to party observers.
“After its unexpected drubbing in the Bihar polls, the BJP would be more aggressive to win Assam. The Congress is bracing for an escalated battle against the BJP in the state,” said a senior Congress leader.