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In Rahul Gandhi’s Congress, Rajya Sabha Loving Leaders Told to Tighten Belt for Electoral Contest

Spokespersons and those who are the face of the party on TV channels have also been asked to make the shift from studios to the streets.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:November 2, 2018, 8:35 PM IST
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In Rahul Gandhi’s Congress, Rajya Sabha Loving Leaders Told to Tighten Belt for Electoral Contest
File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
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New Delhi: The Congress has often been accused of being lethargic and of having too many talking heads. The team of former party chief Sonia Gandhi was full of leaders whose power resided in their positions and was not based on mass appeal or connect with voters. Most of them took the Rajya Sabha route to Parliament instead of contesting elections.

Rahul Gandhi, who is now trying to mould the party in his image, has decided to end the practice and has asked senior party leaders to contest elections, sources told News18. He is believed to be upset with the fact that they prefer to either sit in the Rajya Sabha or sit out of the Parliament.

Many in the top brass of the party, including former finance minister P Chidambaram and defence minister AK Antony, had decide against contesting elections in 2014 despite the clamour from supporters in their regions, leading to BJP’s claims that they feared the Narendra Modi wave.

But Rahul is hopeful of increasing the Congress tally in next year’s Lok Sabha. The election, which was being billed as a foregone conclusion till even a year ago, has evolved into a tighter race as a grand opposition alliance takes shape to take on the BJP.

With this renewed vigour, the Congress chief has asked senior leaders in his party to prepare for the contest. Some of the older leaders being convinced to contest are Manish Tewari, who didn’t contest last time due to an illness, Chidambaram, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Pramod Tiwari, sources said.

Those who fought and lost in 2014 but have still maintained a strong support base in their constituencies, like Jitin Prasad, Milind Deora and RPN Singh, are likely to be fielded again, sources said.

Spokespersons and those who are the face of the party on TV channels have also been asked to make the shift from studios to the streets. Some of those who could contest the Lok Sabha election include Pawan Khera, Priyanka Chaturvedi and Jaiveer Shergill.

A decision has not yet been made on whether Rahul’s close aide and media manager Randeep Surjewala will stick to his MLA post or contest in 2019.

Top sources in the party said the rationale in the shift of strategy is simple. Rahul feels that the only way to match up and to counter the BJP as well as the Modi factor is to infuse fresh faces, who don’t carry any baggage with the voters.

“Rahul has told us in meetings that BJP will go down. While Modi may bring in new faces, Congress too can put up a fight by bringing new faces in as well,” a Congress leader said.

Many younger leaders are already being groomed to fight the elections and have been seen hitting the streets to increase their mass appeal and many have been silently nurturing constituencies.

Sources said while Pawan Khera is eyeing a strong seat in Rajasthan, where Congress hopes to do well in the upcoming state election, Priyanka Chaturvedi could possibly be fielded from UP and Jaiveer Shergill could get a ticket from Jalandhar in Punjab.

But the biggest question will be who will contest from Rae Bareilly. There is a possibility of Sonia Gandhi opting out of the electoral contest, in which case pressure will fall on Priyanka Vadra to step in.
| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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