The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll hopes rain on Cong

New Delhi, Aug. 1: The rain gods seem to have answered Sonia Gandhi’s prayers.

At a party meeting in May, the Congress president had fervently hoped for a good monsoon this year to brighten her party’s Assembly poll prospects.

Now, with half the season over and the scheduled Assembly elections in five states barely four months away, abundant rainfall has brought smiles on the faces of Congress leaders.

“The good rainfall so far this monsoon will surely help improve our campaign to retain power in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh,” a senior AICC functionary said. However, to what extent the raindrops will convert into votes in the states — the Congress is the ruling party in all three — is a matter of perception at the moment.

The Congress central leadership — perhaps, carrying out one of the most systematic pre-poll preparatory campaigns for nearly two months — is reportedly making a detailed in-house assessment of the impact a good monsoon can have on the party’s re-election prospects.

Over a dozen AICC observers, including AICC secretary Chandan Bagchi, party MPs Sriprakash Jaiswal, Pritviraj Chauhan and Santosh Chaudhary, were despatched to the three states six weeks ago to gather political inputs and compile unbiased reports. They will also make an assessment of the monsoon factor.

The observers have been provided with a car with “strict instructions” not to accept the hospitality of the state governments or the party’s state units. Some of them, sources said, have already submitted their preliminary reports to the AICC.

Sonia has scheduled a review meeting with the observers and the AICC general secretaries and secretaries of the poll-bound states on August 7. The observers will also give their views on selection of candidates and campaign issues to be included in poll manifestos.

Central party leaders believe the good monsoon may have derailed the rival BJP’s campaign strategy.

In Rajasthan, they said, the BJP has been building up its attack on the Ashok Gehlot government’s alleged failure to undertake effective drought relief work.

So much so, they said, that the Opposition’s slogan was: “Kamal ko lao, barish ayegi (Bring the lotus — the BJP’s symbol — to power, rain will come).” The slogan was coined to highlight the four successive years of drought the state has suffered ever since Gehlot became chief minister in December 1998.

In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has been focusing on the state’s acute power shortage to take on chief minister Digvijay Singh. But the rain came as a boon and eased the power crisis.

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