The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rains turn Congress tide in Rajasthan

New Delhi, Sept. 16: The unusually good monsoon this season might have done wonders for the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan. Contrary to the findings of the earlier pre-poll surveys commissioned by the party, the first post-monsoon survey predicted that the Congress will retain power, with around 120 seats in the 200-member Assembly.

But the first set of post-monsoon survey findings, learnt to have been submitted to party chief Sonia Gandhi recently, is nevertheless a cause for worry in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In Delhi, though, the party continues to be the favourite to win a second term under chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

Sources said the Congress position has considerably slipped in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh over the last three months. While there is still a good 75 days before the Assembly elections in the five states, including Mizoram, the survey done late last month said the Congress is not expected to touch even the three-figure mark in the 230-member Bhopal Assembly.

In the 90-member Chhattisgarh Assembly, the survey did not give the party more than 35 seats. But in Delhi, the party continues to have the upper hand over the BJP, though the contest is getting closer. It might well bag between 40 and 45 seats in the 70-member Assembly, the survey predicted.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi will have a lot of strategic thinking to do in view of the findings. In the last study three months ago, the party was leading in Chhattisgarh and Delhi.

The findings, the sources said, attributed the party’s sudden decline in Chhattisgarh to three factors — rebirth of the Nationalist Congress Party under V.C. Shukla, Jogi’s “over-confidence and over-exposure”, and the “over-under-estimation of the conversion factor”. Shukla may end up playing spoilsport for the Jogi-led Congress, they said.

If the surveys showed Delhi to be consistently favouring the Congress for a second consecutive term, Digvijay Singh’s Madhya Pradesh has consistently remained the weak state for the party.

Yet, the sources said Digvijay has often proved poll pundits wrong. Contrary to all surveys in the run-up to the 1998 Assembly elections that predicted a loss for the Congress, Digvijay registered a spectacular victory in undivided Madhya Pradesh.

“Digvijay will have to summon all his accumulated experience in the ground-level management of the poll campaign to effect a turnaround. It will be a big wonder if he can do that and repeat history,” said the sources.

The party leadership seems to have faith in Digvijay’s abilities. “In Bhopal, people say the Congress will not win the polls. At the same time, they also say Digvijay will again form the government,” said a senior party functionary a couple of days ago.

The Assembly polls are expected in early December as the term of the Assembly in Delhi ends on December 13. The term of the Rajasthan Assembly expires on January 3 next year and those of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh on January 31. Closer to the poll date, the Congress is expected to commission another round of survey, said the sources.

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