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Congress to focus on Gujarat to deny Modi 'son-of-the-soil' gambit

Party sees BJP suffering setbacks in many states but getting traction in Prime Minister's home state
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally in Valsad on Thursday, and a CWC meeting is scheduled for February 26 in Ahmedabad.

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 14.02.19, 11:25 PM

The Congress leadership has decided to focus attention on Gujarat amid fears in the party that Prime Minister Narendra Modi can salvage lost ground in his home state by invoking “pride and victimhood”.

Congress leaders who believe the BJP will suffer setbacks in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh privately admit that Gujarat is one state where he can alter the existing electoral dynamics by playing the son-of-the-soil card.

One senior leader told The Telegraph: “There is a genuine concern among our strategy-makers that Modi will invoke Gujarati pride and portray himself as a victim of a personal campaign. He will say the entire Opposition had ganged up with the sole Modi-hatao agenda. This emotional card will have maximum effect in Gujarat. We will have to counter that with an effective strategy.”

The BJP had won every single seat in Gujarat in 2014, but the Congress gave it a tough fight in the 2017 Assembly elections. While there was a difference of 26.20 per cent in the vote share of the two parties in 2014, it fell to 7.7 per cent in 2017. But the BJP has worked hard to get back its support base over the past few months.

The Congress is now trying to check the downslide. Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally in Valsad on Thursday, and a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting is scheduled on February 26 in Ahmedabad. This will be followed by a massive public rally.

The Congress had earlier held a CWC meeting outside Delhi, at Wardha in Maharashtra, to highlight the party’s rich legacy of the freedom struggle.

At the Valsad rally, Rahul tried to establish an emotional connect with Gujarat. “I have a complaint with the state (Congress) chief. He is not calling me to Gujarat at regular intervals. I like the food of Gujarat, the people of Gujarat. I want to come more often. I can’t forget the affection and respect the people of Gujarat gave me during the Assembly elections. I will not forget it all my life,” he said.

When the audience loudly responded with “chor hai” to his “chowkidar” chant, Rahul corrected them. “Chowkidar chor hai is for Delhi. In Gujarat, you say ‘chor chhe’,” he said. Then he chanted the slogan multiple times, evoking an enthusiastic response.

Rahul said: “Chowkidar hasn’t stolen money only in the Rafale case. There are so many cases — Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi….”

Writing off loans of select industrialists and not waiving farm loans was another kind of theft that Modi indulged in, he said.


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