Assam is one state where the Congress is hoping to checkmate the BJP. But now, the state has also become the lab for testing the ability of the Congress to throw a match to BJP’s chanakya Amit Shah. With just a few weeks left to go for the scheduled presidential polls of the Congress, the party at this time urgently needs a shrewd strategist who can deliver wins and interrupt the BJP’s spree.
All eyes are on two Congress chief ministers, Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel.
Baghel is believed to be among Rahul Gandhi’s favourites. He was appointed observer for Assam Assembly elections and it was part of the party’s strategy to replicate his model of fighting polls in Assam where the Congress began from scratch. The grand old party had lost Tarun Gogoi and the BJP with Hemanta Biswa Sarma’s help had consolidated itself. The anti-CAA movement had also petered away. The Congress decided to begin from the start. Citizenship Amendment Act was made an issue. All hands were on the deck. Political strategist Naresh Arora of Design Boxed was hired to streamline the process. Young faces like Gaurav Gogoi, Sushmita Dev, Bhanwar Jitender Singh were brought on board. Baghel and his team parked themselves in the state. The challenge for the party was to match the BJP’s strong grassroot organisation. Baghel had successfully worked on strengthening the booths in Chattisgarh, which did work for him. He tried to replicate the model in Assam. The efforts did bear fruit as the Congress soon emerged a strong contender. The competition between the two has only become tough.
After polls concluded in Assam, another chief minister has entered the scene- Ashok Gehlot. Fearing that the BJP may break AIUDF MLAs, they have been rushed to Jaipur where they are camped at Hotel Fairmont to be kept in safe custody. Incidentally, Fairmont was in news in July last year when Gehlot faced a coup from within the party.
The veteran Congress leader had then said that he was saving his government from being toppled by the BJP. But he also faced an imminent threat from deputy chief minister Sachin Gehlot and 18 other MLAs on his side, who, according to Gehlot, had gone rogue.
If the Congress manages to make a mark in Assam, the credit would go to the two chief ministers–Baghel for devising the strategy, Gehlot for protecting ally AIUDF MLAs and the party from the BJP. Needless to say the stock of the two would rise as the Congress struggles to break the winning streak of the BJP and match its hunger for political success. More than a president, the party needs a wily leader. Most in the party accept that Rahul Gandhi is well meaning and genuine, but hasn’t fared well as politician. Does that mean Baghel and Gehlot emerge will emerge as the Shah of the congress and steer it out of crisis?
It is a possibility that the Congress could look at them for a larger role, helping it solve many problems. In Rajasthan, it could finally make the shift of power from Gehlot to Sachin Pilot . In Chattisgarh , Baghel’s tenure of 2.5 years is up and the Congress would have to keep its promise of giving other a chance to avoid dissent .
The Baghel-Gehlot duo could work to ensure they come close to the BJP in terms of strategies . More importantly , if the Congress wins Assam, it would be a revenge Rahul Gandhi would have against Hemanta Biswa Sarma for his ‘pidi’ ridicule of the Gandhi scion. And Rahul would want to reward those who helped him with this revenge.