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Cong raps Gehlot for Gujarat shield

New Delhi, Jan. 8: In a near censure, the Congress leadership is understood to have disapproved of Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s bid to invoke the “Gujarat atmosphere” in explaining the three bypoll defeats in his state last month.

According to party sources, the central leadership has confronted Gehlot with the contrasting poll results in the two adjoining Assembly constituencies along the Gujarat-Rajasthan border with a substantial tribal population — one in Gujarat and the other in Rajasthan.

The Congress, despite the so-called Modi wave, retained the Khedbrahma Assembly seat in north Gujarat’s Sabarkantha district, though the party lost the adjoining Sagwara seat in the Rajasthan Assembly bypoll.

An embarrassed Gehlot apparently had no defence left when the contrasting results were pointed out to him.

The Congress had never lost the Sagwara (Scheduled Tribe) seat in the predominantly tribal district of Dungarpur. The BJP won this seat, retained Bali and captured Bansur from the Bahujan Samaj Party in the bypolls.

According to sources, the bypoll debacle came up for discussion at Sunday’s meeting of the Congress Working Committee, where Gehlot’s “Gujarat atmosphere” theory hardly found any takers among the top leaders.

Last week in Jaipur, a visiting three-member panel of party central leaders told Gehlot to initiate serious measures to improve his government’s image before it fights to retain power in the Assembly polls, scheduled for November.

The panel, led by party general-secretary in charge of Rajasthan Ambika Soni, has submitted to Sonia Gandhi its report on the status of the party and the government in the state. Soni declined to divulge details of the report. The panel’s findings have assumed significance in the Congress in Rajasthan as there have been rumours that Gehlot may find it difficult to retain office.

The reasons are the bypoll debacle and growing criticism of his government’s handling of the drought conditions.

The report could also have a bearing on state Congress chief Girija Vyas’ continuance in office.

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