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Cong eyes face-saver

New Delhi, Dec. 7: On D-Day eve, the party that trashed pre-election surveys and shut its eyes and ears when exit polls offered little cheer, is hoping for at least one face-saver.

So desperate is the Congress that many leaders said that would be as good as a lifeline.

And the faint traces of life appear hidden far away in the bloodstained forests of BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, where the Maoist-infested Bastar region is widely believed to have voted for change.

Although Madhya Pradesh, too, has kept Congress hopes flickering, party leaders conceded that Chhattisgarh was the best bet that could help them confront the “sinking ship” theory the BJP has been itching to propagate in the run-up to the 2014 general election.

Party spokespersons, who are to appear on television on counting day tomorrow, were tutored this evening on different scenarios. While senior leaders asked them not to be disheartened by the exit poll predictions, they were told to take the line that the Lok Sabha elections could not be viewed against this backdrop in case the results were dismal.

If the results are satisfactory, the spokespersons were told to assert that Narendra Modi got punctured and would meet a similar fate in the Lok Sabha elections.

The spokespersons were given different sets of statistics to back their arguments. The party leaders explained that even one victory in the four states was as good as a draw, while two would mean rejection of the BJP. The majority view, though, was that Chhattisgarh could provide the party an escape route.

The party has readied a line of defence against the merchants of doom in case it fails to win any state. It will say the BJP won Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in 2003 but lost the Lok Sabha polls in 2004.

Similarly, the BJP won Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in 2008 but the 2009 Lok Sabha election still saw the Congress improve its position. The argument that local factors decide state outcomes and cannot be taken as a referendum on the central government will also be put forth.

Congress leaders said if the party lost in Delhi, defeat after 15 years would not be such a big deal, though winning here would have sent a very significant message. They hope the BJP falls short of a majority, which would give the Congress enough ammunition to attack the rival’s hype on the Modi factor as Delhi is urbanised and represents people from all states.

A hung Assembly after 15 years of the Sheila Dikshit government, which faced abnormal prices of vegetables that burnt pockets for months together, would embolden the Congress.

If the Congress loses in Rajasthan, the party plans to explain it as a cycle of change as the BJP and the Congress have been winning alternately here.