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As Gandhi Siblings Get their Mojo Back in Lakhimpur, Cong to Keep Up Tempo for Solo Fight Against BJP

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra meet families of the farmers killed in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, on October 6, 2021. (Twitter/@INCIndia)

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra meet families of the farmers killed in the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, on October 6, 2021. (Twitter/@INCIndia)

The burst of aggression comes amid souring ties with the TMC and an upcoming Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting where the party is likely to agree on a strategy that is less subservient to opposition unity.

Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s high-voltage visit to Lakhimpur Kheri, pipping other opposition parties, has emboldened the Congress and it now plans to carry forward this momentum.

This burst of fresh aggression and energy comes amid souring ties with the Trinamool Congress, made evident by poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s public criticism of the grand old party. Kishor is known to share a strong rapport with TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and had recently delivered for her in Assembly elections.

Kishor’s criticism met a similarly worded rebuttal from Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, who took a veiled dig at the TMC poaching Congress leaders in Bengal.

Given this context, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on October 16 is crucial for more reasons than one. Firstly, the meeting has been a major demand of a rebel faction of veteran leaders within the Congress, dubbed the Group of 23, who have been demanding organisational elections. Secondly, on the agenda is the political strategy ahead.

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There is growing chorus within the Congress that it should stop conceding political space to other parties for the sake of opposition unity and instead think about strengthening itself. Sources say Rahul Gandhi was never keen on the Congress giving up its identity for the sake of opposition unity. But since Sonia Gandhi was keen on the idea based on the UPA coalition’s 2004 success, he preferred to remain silent on the issue.

Sources now say that Rahul Gandhi may have his way. While the Congress won’t speak out nationally against the TMC — leaving that job to the state leadership – it will no longer be subservient either. The Congress did not field a candidate against Mamata Banerjee in the recently held Bhabanipur bypoll, a decision said to have demoralised local cadre.

ALSO READ | Prashant Kishor Raining on Congress’s Lakhimpur Parade Signals Their Ties are in ‘Cold Storage’

Despite the gesture, the admission by turncoat Luizinho Faleiro that Kishor had approached him first has angered the Congress, cementing the break-up with the strategist.

Bouyed by the Lakhimpur belligerence, the party is now diverting its energy into preparing for a direct Congress versus BJP fight. The first step was the unusually quick reaction to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s jibe at Priyanka Gandhi sweeping the floor of the Sitapur guest house. “Janata unko usi layak banana chahti, aur usi layak bana diya (people want her to do this only),” the CM said, and the Congress immediately termed it an “insult” to Dalits and women.

She picked up the broom again this time swept the ground at the Valmiki temple to woo the Valmiki community.

While the Congress won’t go after opposition parties like the TMC and Samajwadi Party yet, preferring to keep the focus on the BJP, it has now decided to build a new base of aggressive leaders who can connect with the crowd. The induction of Kanhaiya Kumar and Jignesh Mevani will help in this direction. Also in the pipeline are young talent in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and some in UP.

Slowly but surely, the Gandhis are beginning to take charge and fight back. But the final scorecard will only be revealed come UP elections 2022.

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first published:October 09, 2021, 16:13 IST