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Gujarat polls: Cong to opt for low-key track

The failure of its much-hyped and aggressive election campaign in UP has forced the Congress to change its strategy in poll-bound Gujarat.
By Aurangzeb Naqshbandi | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 04, 2012 12:15 AM IST

The failure of its much-hyped and aggressive election campaign in UP has forced the Congress to change its strategy in poll-bound Gujarat.

Fine-tuning its campaign strategy for the upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat, party managers favoured a low-key electioneering in the BJP-ruled state in the initial stage.

The Congress, sources said, will follow the same tactic that was used during the recent by-election to Mansa assembly seat which it wrested from the BJP after 17 years. The victory was considered significant given that Mansa, represented by former speaker Mangaldas Patel, falls under Gandhinagar, the seat of power of the Narendra Modi government, and also because the constituency had remained loyal to BJP since 1995.

The Congress has been struggling hard to regain power in Gujarat for the past 17 years. Chandulal Mehta headed the last Congress government in 1995. “The entire by-poll campaign was kept a low-key affair. The victory surprised us and stunned BJP. We will use the same silent and surgical operation in assembly elections as well,” said a party strategist.

In the 2007 polls, the BJP won 117 out of the total 182 seats, while the Congress could manage only 59.

For the coming assembly elections in Gujarat, likely to be held in December along with another BJP-ruled state Himachal Pradesh, the party has decided to lay special emphasis on mass contact programmes and corner meetings rather than big public meetings.

The central leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi, will campaign at a later stage, a source said.

Congress managers have also identified 51 out of the total 182 seats where the party was "very weak and had fared badly" in the past elections. The exercise was carried out with the objective of announcing the candidates on these seats at the earliest so that they could launch their poll campaign well on time.

Since September last year, the party has organised several election programmes, including Sardar Sandesh Yatra, Pol Khol rallies, across the state, highlighting the alleged corruption and mis-governance of the BJP government.

Prior to Mansa, the party last year tasted victory in Gandhinagar civic polls and also some panchayat elections, giving a ray of hope to the Congress to revive its fortunes in the state. But infighting and weak leadership are worrying factors for party managers in Delhi.

Rahul to analyse UP poll debacle

Rahul Gandhi will analyse the party’s poll debacle in UP at a two-day review meeting from April 5. Apart from MPs, newly- elected MLAs from the state have been called for the much-talked about meeting. Candidates, who lost despite polling 20,000 votes and above, have also been called to the meeting.

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