Rahul Gandhi to launch Gujarat campaign on Sept 4 with workers’ meet

india Updated: Aug 23, 2017 12:54 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi,Gujarat,Gujarat polls

Rahul Gandhi will also seek their assessment of the elections scheduled for November-December this year.(AFP File Photo)

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will launch his campaign for the upcoming Gujarat assembly elections with a workers’ meeting in Ahmedabad on September 4 and the party may soon announce its poll manifesto in the western state where the party has been out of power since 1995.

The workers will apprise Gandhi of the functioning of the state leadership and also air their grievances. The Congress leader will also seek their assessment of the elections scheduled for November-December this year.

The party will also soon announce its campaign and screening committees and leaders such as Arjun Modvadhia, Siddharth Patel, and Shaktisinh Gohil will be given responsibilities in these panels.

Congress sources said the high command has also finalised some organisational changes in the state to accommodate disgruntled leaders. The party is also unlikely to name its chief ministerial candidate to keep the faction-ridden state unit united in the run up to the polls.

Sources added the party is also mulling a broad-based coalition to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that has been ruling the state for nearly two decades now.

The hard-fought victory of Congress heavyweight Ahmed Patel in the high-octane Rajya Sabha in recent memory has breathed fresh life into the otherwise crumbling Gujarat Congress months before the state goes to polls.

The win is set to raise the stakes dramatically in the December assembly elections given that BJP president Amit Shah has already set an ambitious target of 150-plus seats in the 182-member House.

While some central leaders are in touch with 24-year-old Patidar leader Hardik Patel, many state leaders also want social activist and lawyer Jignesh Mevani on board. At the forefront of the Ambedkarite movement in Gujarat, Mevani, 36, has emerged as the face of Dalits who comprise about 7-8% of the total population in the western state.

But the Congress is banking heavily on the support of the Patels, who constitute about 14% of Gujarat’s population. The BJP has been at the receiving end of Patels for some time now.

The Patels had been a loyal vote bank of the BJP for the past two decades but the quota agitation has caused cracks in their bond.

Following a nine-month long sustained agitation led by Hardik Patel in 2015, the BJP government tried to placate the Patidars by announcing 10% reservation for economically backward classes (EBCs) in May last year. However, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), led by Hardik, rejected the move.

As part of its strategy, the Congress has promised 20% reservation for EBCs among the upper castes if it comes to power after the state polls.

First Published: Aug 23, 2017 12:53 IST