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Rahul fails to sink roadshow jinx

New Delhi, Dec. 23: Rahul Gandhi’s roadshow bombed again.

After criss-crossing Uttar Pradesh and not delivering, Rahul notched his second failure in Gujarat. The Congress didn’t win a single seat in Surat city and Vadodara city as well as rural, the places handpicked for the Rahul roadshow.

Rahul’s delayed entry towards the end of the first phase of polling was reportedly based on the Congress’s optimism that it would make “spectacular” gains in Saurashtra and south Gujarat. The Congress general secretary was supposed to go to Kutch but his schedule was revised and he went around Surat city.

Surat, the political and financial capital of south Gujarat, was important to the Congress for another reason. Ahmed Patel, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary who hails from a village near Bharuch, is supposed to have an “entrenched” political network in the region. Patel put his heart and soul in this election because Sonia made it her personal mission to defeat Narendra Modi.

Surat’s influential diamond traders were supposed to have turned against the BJP because one of its representatives, Dhirubhai Gajera, revolted against Modi and was rewarded with a Congress ticket.

Rahul toured Gajera’s constituency and spoke glowingly of how the entrepreneurship of Surat’s traders had kept the diamond mines of Australia alive.

Word went around that he had “touched” the hearts of the traders and assured a win for Gajera. But Gajera lost by a huge margin to the BJP.

The Amethi MP also sought to recall his grandfather Feroze Gandhi’s links with Surat and uttered some tutored lines in Gujarati to “prove” he was as much a son of the soil as Narendra Modi. The connection didn’t click.

Rahul’s attempt to establish his link didn’t stand a chance against Modi’s high-pitched campaign on Gujarati “asmita” (pride). Ironically, the “asmita” factor bubbled to the surface after Sonia uttered the headline-grabbing “merchants of death” phrase which Modi construed as a slight not just on himself but the “5.5 crore” Gujaratis.

Although nobody in the Congress would dare speak out against Rahul’s style of campaigning, there was a feeling that his roadshow would degenerate into public “tamashas” unless he communicated something politically substantive.

Learning from the Uttar Pradesh experience — when he made controversial statements on the Babri Masjid demolition and how his family was responsible for Pakistan’s dismemberment — he steered clear of controversies in Gujarat.

But his move to take on Modi by raising denial of land rights to tribals boomeranged. By the time Rahul addressed the tribals of rural Vadodara, Modi had sent out a message on how the Centre had “cheated” them by failing to notify the tribal land rights legislation which could have helped him secure their land rights. The Centre notified the law, but it was too late.

Not just Rahul. Questions were raised on the Congress’s approach to its campaign and why it carpet-bombed Gujarat with leaders like Ambika Soni and Renuka Chowdhury.

Ambika campaigned against Modi’s confidant and state minister Anandiben Patel alongside Anandiben’s estranged husband, Mafatlal Patel. She won.

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