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Hit by Ahmed Patel's Absence, Hardik's Waning Magic, Can Baghel, Sachin Pilot Reverse Congress' Fortunes in Gujarat?

In Congress, The search is on for a replacement to state in-charge Rajeev Satav who passed away due to post-Covid complications. (PTI File)

In Congress, The search is on for a replacement to state in-charge Rajeev Satav who passed away due to post-Covid complications. (PTI File)

Sources say Rahul Gandhi wants someone dynamic to take charge in Gujarat to defeat the BJP ahead of the 2024 elections.

A demoralised Congress party looked on as the churn within the BJP Gujarat resulted in the sudden exit of Vijay Rupani as chief minister to be replaced by Bhupendra Patel.

In a clear sign from the BJP that they wanted to woo the powerful Patel community in Gujarat ahead of state polls in 2022, it also did not want to ignore the feedback that Rupani’s performance was not up to the mark and could hurt the BJP in state polls.

The concern in the BJP is understandable, given that in 2017 polls, the Congress had put up a surprising good show with over 40 per cent jump in vote share and inched close to the margin set by the BJP.

The trio of Jignesh Mevani, Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakore had worked and soon, Hardik — who was known for putting pressure on the state BJP demanding Patidar reservation — helped the Congress in the state.

In fact, Rahul Gandhi had criss-crossed the state in 2017, reaching out to tribals, farmers, Patels and all important stakeholders. He steered clear of any controversial and personal issues, knowing that PM Modi held a strong stature in his home state. “Vikas Gando Thayo Chhe” (Vikas has gone crazy) was the slogan given by the Congress in the state.

But since then, things have gone awry for the Congress. A washout in local polls led to resignations of state unit president Amit Chavda and leader of opposition (LOP) Paresh Dhanani. The young Hardik Patel, who joined the Congress in 2019, has been made the working president of the party in a clear bid to woo the Patels and also bring about a generational change.

However, the party cadre looks dejected and rudderless and the absence of Ahmed Patel is being felt. The aggressive win in Rajya Sabha polls against all odds also added to the perception that Congress could buck up in a state which has been the fiefdom of the BJP. But today, the party looks on with dismay even as it hopes things may change soon.

This is why Rahul Gandhi is giving special focus to the state, say sources. A defeat for the BJP in the PM’s home state, he feels, would be the biggest shocker ahead of 2024 polls. The search is on for a replacement to state in-charge Rajeev Satav who passed away due to post-Covid complications.

Sources say Rahul Gandhi wants someone dynamic to take charge. One name proposed was of Bhupesh Baghel, should there have been a change of guard. An able administrator, a good organisation person yet one who keeps a low profile, Rahul Gandhi had proposed that Baghel in the state would have worked for the Congress. But as it became clear that the Congress could not remove Baghel yet, the search is on.

Another name which is being speculated is that of Sachin Pilot who as PCC chief led his party to win in Rajasthan. It’s felt that a young dynamic face like him could work in Gujarat. Plus, his being state in-charge of neighbouring Gujarat would not entirely cut him off from Rajasthan.

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first published:September 13, 2021, 09:12 IST