Focus on Cong prez pick amid assembly polls

Updated on Feb 23, 2022 02:50 AM IST

The party, which aims to bring in a new, long-term president amid the exit of key leaders, rumbling discontent of a section of veterans and allegations of a drift, could find the perfect stage in these polls for the next president to take over, people aware of the matter said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.(ANI)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.(ANI)

Elections in five states, including the most populous Uttar Pradesh and the key power centre of Punjab, have come with an added significance for the Congress — the atmosphere in which its upcoming organisational polls will be held.

The party, which aims to bring in a new, long-term president amid the exit of key leaders, rumbling discontent of a section of veterans and allegations of a drift, could find the perfect stage in these polls for the next president to take over, people aware of the matter said.

On the party’s prospects in the polls, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said: “Winning elections is always desirable for a political party. We are expecting victory in at least two states and a good result in a third.”

“Our victories will silence our critics. But if you talk about organisational polls, at any point, our former president Rahul Gandhi will get an overwhelming majority whenever the elections will take place,” he added.

The Congress’s hopes are pinned on a return to power in Punjab and victory in at least one of the three small states: Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur. While it is fighting the UP assembly polls for the first time under the leadership of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, experts say the Congress faces a tough task in a four-cornered battle against the Bharatiya Janata Party, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.

In both Uttarakhand and Goa, the Congress hopes to gain from the anti-incumbency factor against the present BJP governments. In Uttarakhand, the Congress has targeted to woo voters with subsidies in cooking gas prices and filling up government job vacancies.

The Congress promised to cap the price of cooking gas cylinders at 500.

It also announced that 57,000 vacancies in various government departments would be filled up within a year.

A senior said that an improved performance ahead of the party’s organisational elections will be “helpful for the next president” and can go a long way to “stem the exodus” of senior leaders.

“There’s no doubt that irrespective of the results, Rahul Gandhi will enjoy overwhelming majority in the upcoming organisation elections. We are not even expecting a Jitin Prasada-like candidature from the G23. But winning these polls will consolidate the Congress position in the Opposition ranks and further strengthen Rahul Gandhi’s position,” a senior party strategist involved in the election planning said on condition of anonymity.

On Monday, at a virtual rally, Congress president Sonia Gandhi underlined the central theme of the party’s campaign in this election. “Congress’ politics is all about service and rights,” Sonia Gandhi said, underlining the efforts for empowerment of the people.

Goa, where Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is fighting its debut polls, is another state where the Congress is hoping to perform well.

In both these states, the party also tried to tap specific sectors such as tourism.

While the party promised creating tourist police in Uttarakhand, in Goa, Rahul Gandhi interacted with anganwadi workers and those working in the tourism sector, something that he started in 2014 when he spent a lot of time in sector-specific micro meetings.

The Congress has sent its senior strategist Jairam Ramesh as poll incharge in Manipur just as it deployed P Chidambaram, a pan-Indian face and a key poll strategist in Goa.

But party insiders say winning Manipur would be a major challenge for the Congress against the BJP and other local political parties.

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