After Rahul's near absence from Gujarat polls, Congress hits rock bottom - Hindustan Times
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After Rahul's near absence from Gujarat polls, Congress hits rock bottom

PTI | | Posted by Yagya Sharma
Dec 08, 2022 10:18 PM IST

While Congress circles remained abuzz on Thursday with comparisons between the siblings, several leaders did acknowledge that the party could have done better had Rahul Gandhi paid attention to Gujarat, like he did the last time around.

As the Congress hit rock bottom in Gujarat, settling for a dismal show of winning only 17 seats in the 182-member state assembly, baffled party leaders wondered whether the results could have been different had Rahul Gandhi campaigned in the state.

It may be worth noting that Rahul Gandhi did not visit Himachal at all during elections, leaving the entire campaign to his sister.(PTI)
It may be worth noting that Rahul Gandhi did not visit Himachal at all during elections, leaving the entire campaign to his sister.(PTI)

Rahul Gandhi mostly stayed away from the elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, choosing to focus on the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The only time he campaigned was when he flew in to address two public rallies, one in Surat and another in Rajkot.

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As per the Thursday’s results, the party lost all the three seats in Surat and the four seats in Rajkot that it had won in 2017.

In contrast, Rahul Gandhi's sister and AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the most visible campaigner for the party in Himachal Pradesh, managed to power the Congress to a comfortable majority there.

The victory for the Congress in Himachal, where it was seen winning 40 of the 68 seats in the state, came in the face of a high-decibel campaign by BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It may be worth noting that Rahul Gandhi did not visit Himachal at all during elections, leaving the entire campaign to his sister.

While Congress circles remained abuzz on Thursday with comparisons between the siblings, several leaders did acknowledge that the party could have done better had Rahul Gandhi paid attention to Gujarat, like he did the last time around.

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"The party's decision to keep the campaign low key and leave it to the state leaders certainly backfired. There was no presence of any top central leader in the state, while Rahul Gandhi was busy with the Bharat Jodo Yatra. We should have devised our strategy differently," said a Congress leader who did not wish to be named.

In 2017, when the Congress came very close to wresting Gujarat from the BJP, Rahul Gandhi had extensively toured the state, holding as many as 150 big and small public rallies during a 22-day campaign.

The 2017 performance of the party -- 77 seats out of 182 -- was the best since 1985, the year it had created a record by winning 149 seats, a record that the BJP surpassed on Thursday.

He also conducted yatras across the state in 2017, managing to give jitters to the BJP which posted its worst performance of 99 seats since the 1990 elections when it had won 67 seats.

Rahul Gandhi had also hyped the campaign last time by bringing in three young faces -- Hardik Patel, a patidar leader who led their agitation for reservation in jobs, backward leader Alpesh Thakor and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani. Both Patel and Thakor quit the Congress and joined the BJP, while Mevani is still with the Congress.

Both Patel and Thakor have won the elections on the BJP ticket this time, and so has Mevani.

Party leaders on Thursday spoke of how Rahul Gandhi's sustained campaign in Saurashtra and North Gujarat, his engagement with the minorities, Dalits and tribals aided Congress' revival of sorts in the state last time. The gains lie terribly squandered.

Pawan Khera, who heads the media and publicity department of Congress, admitted that the party’s strategy of going local in Gujarat seems to have not worked.

"We had changed the campaign format this time and had concentrated at the grassroots level," he told PTI.

Asked if Rahul Gandhi's absence from the campaign dampened the party’s prospects, he said: "We cannot compare the two situations as the templates were different".

Khera also claimed that the Bharat Jodo Yatra had its own impact and the party was using the Dwarka declaration and eight pledges given by Rahul Gandhi in taking its campaign forward.

Gujarat Congress chief Jagdish Thakor insisted that the party had fought well, but the results were not commensurate. It could have been better had Gandhi also campaigned extensively, he said.

"The Congress fought as hard as it could but never expected these results. We missed Rahul Gandhi in our campaign," he told PTI.

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