When the election campaign in Gujarat will be at its peak between November 20 and December 5, Rahul Gandhi will be walking in those 16 days in the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh as part of his ongoing ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’.
The Congress has repeatedly said the Yatra is not about elections. But it would look stark to any political observer that Gandhi would be walking through the state next door while skipping Gujarat during the period which would see a confluence of political campaigners in the high-stake election battle. After all, it was Rahul Gandhi who was the top campaigner for his party in the 2017 Gujarat elections when his party ran the BJP close by winning 77 seats and reducing the saffron party to below the 100 mark. Gandhi’s ‘Temple Run’ had then caught eyeballs.
This time, however, Congress schedulers have inexplicably skipped Gujarat from the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ schedule. Rahul Gandhi also did not take a break from the Yatra to visit poll-bound Himachal Pradesh for a campaign, though Congress state chief Pratibha Singh had earlier told News18 that Gandhi had assured her he would come briefly. The Congress pitch in Gujarat seems lackluster in Gandhi’s absence with no clear chief ministerial face and many described the party to be on a ‘silent campaign’ with leaders like Hardik Patel leaving it.
In fact, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is threatening to eat into the Congress space in Gujarat with Arvind Kejriwal making repeated visits to the state, holding rallies and road shows, and also declaring a chief ministerial face. AAP is building a campaign that Gujaratis have voted for the Congress repeatedly, and also in 2017, but the Grand Old Party has not been able to dislodge the BJP from Gujarat for the last 27 years. Congress failed in its best chance in 2017 and hence, AAP should be given a chance this time, stresses Kejriwal’s party.
After Delhi and Punjab, Congress faces the prospect of AAP overtaking it in another state, making it imperative for Rahul Gandhi to return his focus to Gujarat. Fighting anti-incumbency, Gujarat remains a high-stakes battle for the Narendra Modi-led BJP in the run-up to the 2024 general elections. There is a political school of thought that feels Gandhi should, in fact, have begun his Yatra from Gujarat and the Sabarmati Ashram, in consonance with the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi beginning his Dandi Yatra from Sabarmati Ashram in 1930.
There is a political case, and need, for Rahul Gandhi to divert his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ to Gujarat and revive his party’s mojo in the state. Will he do so? Interestingly, a senior BJP leader told News18 that it would “help the BJP” if Rahul comes to Gujarat to campaign as he would invariably make a controversial comment that may end up aiding the BJP. “Rahul Gandhi has already been speaking against Gujarat during his Yatra in Maharashtra, saying all big projects are going away from Maharashtra to Gujarat. We are milking such statements,” the BJP leader said.
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