New Delhi: In an effort to oust the Narendra Modi government, Congress President Rahul Gandhi ran a concerted campaign over the past three and a half months, holding nearly 150 rallies and road shows besides press conferences to spell out his partys vision and counter BJP attacks.
In the elections considered crucial for the Congres which was decimated to 44 Lok Sabha seats in the last elections, Gandhi sought to keep the focus on issues concerning the common man as he attempted to seize the narrative from the BJP which made nationalism a key election plank.
Gandhi campaigned all over the country but his average visit per seat was among the highest in Bihar even though the Congress is contesting only nine of the 40 seats in the state as part of the ‘grand alliance’.
Gandhi visited the state seven times since February 3 rally, which in a way, marked start of his Lok Sabha campaign.
Gandhi, who is contesting from Amethi in UP and Wayanad in Kerala, campaigned in both the seats. He visited Amethi thrice and Wayanad twice including the days he filed his nominations.
Apart from a road show in Amethi on April 10, Gandhi held rallies at three places in the constituency on April 22 and another two places on April 27. He filed nomination from Wayanad on April 4 and addressed a rally there on April 17.
In Uttar Pradesh, where 80 Lok Sabha seats are at stake, the Congress is not a part of the ‘gathbandhan’ between the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal and largely fought the elections on its own.
Gandhi made 11 electioneering visits to this state since February and held rallies and road shows. He also met family members of CRPF martyrs on February 20. His last rally in the state was on May 16.
Party leaders said that Gandhi visited Madhya Pradesh nine times and Rajasthan seven times, holding multiple rallies in the state considered crucial for Congress revival.
He visited Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, four times since February.
Through his campaigns, Gandhi has also sought to emerge as a counter to Modi, accusing the BJP leader of being “arrogant” and “vengeful” and portraying himself as “democratic”, “sensitive” and “accessible”.
With his persistent and concerted attacks, Gandhi has sought to emerge as the strongest critic of Modi.
Gandhi has accused BJP and its ideological patron RSS of dividing society and “spreading hatred” while insisting that he will defeat it with “love”. He had hugged Modi during a debate in Parliament last year.
While Modi was the main target of Gandhi’s attack on the issues related to alleged corruption, unemployment and problem of farmers, he kept reminding people of the difficulties faced by them due to demonetisation and “flawed” implementation of Gabbar Singh Tax (GST).
Gandhi also sought to present the Congress as a party committed to people-oriented governance with its flagship initiative such as NYAY — Nyuntam Aay Yojana — which promises to provide Rs 72,000 annually to the poorest 20 per cent of the families.
Gandhi announced steps to boost jobs, health care, infrastructure and to boost economy.
The Lok Sabha elections are crucial for Congress as the party was reduced to 44 seats by BJP-led by Modi in the last Lok Sabha elections.
These are also the first elections being fought by the party with Gandhi as its chief.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was appointed as general secretary in January, also campaigned in some states apart from Uttar Pradesh but the major responsibility of campaign was carried by Rahul Gandhi who addressed as many as five rallies on a few days.
Their mother and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who is contesting from Rae Bareli, did not campaign in the elections due to health reasons. She had played a key role in the party’s campaign in 2014.