New Delhi: With the Gujarat elections round the corner and the first litmus test of Mallikarjun Kharge as Congress president, the grand old party is seeking to boost its poll prospects in the state by addressing about two dozen public meetings.
Mallikarjun Kharge has devised a strategy to take on the Bharatiya Janata party, which has been in power for over two decades, in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Congress is gearing up by bringing some of its highest-ranked leaders to campaign in the second phase to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The areas which will witness polling in the second phase in Gujarat hold much importance to Congress as Saurashtra and the tribal belts have been strongholds of the party and the top leaders who will be campaigning in the second phase include Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and a host of senior leaders.
Kharge is scheduled to campaign for two days before the first phase of the Gujarat assembly election that will take place on December 1.
Kharge will also campaign for the second phase in Gujarat on December 1 and 2, the sources said on Saturday
The Gujarat assembly polls have been declared to be conducted in two phases on December 1 and 5 before the announcement of results on December 8.
Voting for 89 assembly seats will take place in the first phase, while for the remaining 93 assembly seats voting will be held in the second phase of polling.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is also expected to join and campaign for the party in Gujarat in the second phase of polling.
“His (Rahul Gandhi) tour will however depend on a break in ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’,” they said.
It is pertinent to mention that even after the Congress has got a non-Gandhi president after 24 years in Mallikarjun Kharge and the leader, has plunged in the election campaign in poll-bound states, the dominance of the Gandhi family is visible even after a month of the change of top leader at the AICC.
Kharge’s picture is still missing from the official hoarding board of the Congress headquarters and it is yet to find a place in the rooms of the party’s key office-bearers.
This was not the case when Sonia Gandhi took the leadership role and when Rahul Gandhi became general secretary and later party chief.
Soon after he became president, Kharge started meeting leaders and workers by giving appointments at his home. He also plunged into the electoral campaign for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat elections.
He has started meeting workers at Congress headquarters between 11 am and 1 pm without an appointment. After Rahul Gandhi resigned as party chief in 2019, this process of meetings came to a virtual standstill, party leaders said.
“Soniaji and Rahulji also used to meet but it all stopped due to the coronavirus. It has started again and people can meet without any prior appointment,” Naseer Hussain, Congress MP and coordinator attached to Kharge, told ANI on November 22.
Kharge has fully taken over but the Congress apparatus is apparently slow to react.
When Sonia became president, her photo was placed on the official board of the party headquarters at 24 Akbar Road in Delhi.
Photos of Sonia along with that of other veteran leaders was put up in the room of every Congress office-bearer at Congress headquarters.
Rahul Gandhi’s photo also made it to the rooms of AICC office-bearers soon after he was appointed general secretary.
His photo was all over the AICC after he became the party chief in 2017 and photos of other members of Gandhi-Nehru family who have held party posts also adorned the walls.
In fact, Rahul Gandhi’s picture was replaced by that of Sonia on the official board of the party within 24 hours when she became the interim president in 2019. Photos of the two leaders were already in AICC rooms.
Nasir Hussain sought to play down the delay in putting up of Kharge’s photo.
“I have not seen where the picture has not been put up, it has been used in the posters for publicity and manifestos. Rest of the places it will also be put up soon,” he said.
The situation is likely to give ammunition to the BJP to continue attacking the Congress on “family rule”.
Though the Gandhi family has followed the protocol and has extended due courtesies to Kharge, the “Congress system” appears slow to react giving rise to various questions.