The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sardar start for Sonia campaign

New Delhi, Nov. 2: Loath to let the BJP appropriate the legacy of Sardar Patel, Sonia Gandhi is likely to kick off the Congress’ election campaign from Karamsad, the birthplace of the Iron Man, on November 11.

Earlier this week, Narendra Modi had set the BJP campaign rolling from the same place, accusing the Congress of ignoring the Sardar’s contribution to the nation.

It is apparent that the Congress wants to match the BJP step for step in terms of gimmicks. But there ends the similarities in strategy. Sources said the party will focus on basic issues affecting the common man during campaigning.

What did the BJP do in the last five years apart from supplying them with a huge dose of Hindutva, the party plans to ask. It will highlight the abysmal failure of the Modi government in addressing the severe shortage of power and water, bad roads and burgeoning unemployment. The state has a staggering Rs 50,000 crore debt and has to pay an interest of Rs 5,000 crore per annum, it will point out.

The Congress plans to involve some NGOs in its campaign. Scores of ministers and legislators from the neighbouring Congress-ruled states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab will also put in an effort. The sources said the BJP and Modi had begun showing signs of desperation.

The bureaucracy has turned against the saffron brigade and the Congress could sweep the polls if candidates were selected properly, they said.

The BJP has lost its nerve and confidence at the central and state levels. The second-rung leadership that the party tried to groom has not matured. The “imposed leaders” in place of “natural leaders” have failed to strike a rapport with the masses, said a source.

With an eye on making Gujarat the 16th Congress-ruled state in the run up to the next parliamentary polls, the Congress expressed its readiness to join hands with other secular parties to dislodge the BJP in the state.

The Congress general secretary in charge of Gujarat, Kamal Nath, said “talks are on with several like-minded parties, including the Samajwadi Party, NCP, Left parties and the Lok Janshakti with a view to avoid a division in secular votes”. But he declined to specify how many seats it was willing to concede.

Nath, however, rebuffed Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s attempts to link Gujarat with Uttar Pradesh, saying there was no quid pro quo on the two states.

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