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Rahul Gandhi Relies on Old Guard to Avoid Goa Repeat in Meghalaya

The Congress in Meghalaya is leading in 21 seats, 10 short of the 31 seats needed to form a government.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:March 3, 2018, 5:35 PM IST
Rahul Gandhi Relies on Old Guard to Avoid Goa Repeat in Meghalaya
Rahul Gandhi sent senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel, Mukul Wasnik and Kamal Nath to Meghalaya for possible tie-ups for govt formation in the state. (PTI photo/Files)
New Delhi: A few days before counting in Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya, Rahul Gandhi tweeted to say he was visiting his grandmother to give her a surprise hug. But before he left, he decided to send Kamal Nath, Mukul Wasnik and Ahmed Patel to Meghalaya, aware that it would not be all smooth sailing in the state.

The reason was that Rahul doesn’t want a repeat of Goa and Manipur, where despite being the single largest party it failed to form the government as BJP was quicker in stitching alliances. The old warlords of the party were dispatched to ensure that Congress can form government there.

The Congress in Meghalaya is leading in 21 seats, 10 short of the 31 seats needed to form a government. But it is taking no chances as the BJP although only has two seats to its own states can stitch up a post-poll alliance together with the National People's Party (NPP), an NDA ally that contested separately.

The results have thrown up important lessons for the Congress and Rahul. First, the election machine of the BJP is very strong and Congress has much catching up to do. For this, the Congress needs the old guard as they, and not the younger ones, are the ones that have the shrewdness to take on the BJP.

The sending of the three leaders to Meghalaya by Rahul is testimony of the fact that the old guard is still needed. A senior leader of the party revealed that Rahul before leaving the country said that the Congress needs to send a message that it put up a fight.

There was a meticulous thinking behind the choice of the leaders. Earlier, Rahul was said to have not thought too highly of Ahmed Patel, unlike his mother Sonia Gandhi, who relied completely on him. But Patel’s ferocious win for his Rajya Sabha seat made Rahul look differently at him, and Patel returned to favour.

Kamal Nath again belongs to the old style of politics and has friends across parties. This makes him handy during fire-fighting. Nath proved his mettle, especially in 2004, when Congress was stitching up alliances. He managed to get Sonia and DMK to overcome their bitterness to come together for a larger cause, which was to defeat the NDA.

More recently, as parliamentary affairs minister during UPA-2, he managed to use his clout with other parties to get his party out of Parliament logjams.

But the biggest lesson has come from Tripura, where the Congress failed to open its account. The party’s campaign there showed that it was confused over its strategy. Putting up a fight would have meant attacking Manik Sarkar.

But simultaneously, it is also trying to set up an umbrella alliance ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls, so the party wasn’t too keen to take on the Left. It failed at both. It lost miserably in the state and left behind a perception that it has no individuality. As a senior leader said “maya mili na ram.”
| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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