CONGRESS WRAP?UP: Overconfidence, delay may yet take their toll

Banking on media reports giving the Congress a huge edge in the elections, the party appeared confident of its chances even before the campaign started.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2003 08:53 IST

Banking on media reports giving the Congress a huge edge in the elections, the party appeared confident of its chances even before the campaign started. This was reflected clearly in a colourless campaign where candidates’ individual efforts were visible more than that of the party..

Delay in finalising tickets was the first blow to the launch of the campaign. Only about half the sitting MLAs - assured beforehand of a ticket - could begin early. Others began campaigns only after November 14, the last date of nomination.

Many candidates struggled to make last minute arrangements even to file nominations as the party declared tickets of about 28 candidates only on 13 November night. In real time, Congress candidates launched campaigns only after 18 November by when the BJP's campaign was in full swing.

The Congress opted for traditional electioneering methods like padyatra and corner meetings as “our. emphasis was on contact with each voter," said Congress spokesperson Jagdish Tytler.

For film stars, the Congress could only manage Rajesh Khanna and Sunil Dutt, both party leaders while a few candidates roped in small time Hindi and Punjabi singers.

What hurt the party most was that most publicity plans of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee remained on paper, especially the campaign through technology. Only one MLA set up a website and there were hardly any takers for the SMS facility which several firms offered. There were also complaints that the party didn’t provide the campaign material till the last stage. Only a dummy model of Delhi Metro and a flyover were built.

The campaign mostly hovered around the image of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, the Delhi government’s performance, anti-incumbency against the Centre and individual performance. National issues didn’t find much mention.

To its advantage, the Congress had its star campaigner, party president Sonia Gandhi, when it mattered the most. She addressed three rallies in Delhi on November 17 covering people from almost all constituencies. Overflowing crowds at her rallies were a shot in the arm in view of the poor attendance at BJP rallies.

The favourable opinion the party received in various opinion polls also kept Congress leaders from worrying during the campaign period. The Hindustan Times-CSDS survey for instance, gave the Congress 58 seats.

First Published: Nov 30, 2003 17:55 IST