Congress cautious in Gujarat; Shashi Tharoor busy in Kerala, Kharge tails Rahul

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, November 21: In about a week, the first phase of electioneering in Gujarat will come to an end and barring a cameo of former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi the top guns of the opposition party appear extra hesitant to campaign in the state. Shashi Tharoor who had sought to infuse new life in Congress seems Kerala bound, while the victor in the party president election Mallikarjun Kharge is spending more time with the ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra.

Congress national general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also is not seen in Gujarat. Former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has stopped campaigning in elections years ago. Vadra had led Congress campaign in Himachal Pradesh. Congress was apparently banking on the premise that the larger turnout of the women and the hilly state not re-electing same government for three decades with Vadra as the lead campaigner would suit the party.

Tharoor is busy in Kerala with the Indian Youth Congress and the NSUI workers. He has found time to launch a couple of books in the national capital. Tharoor also had time to attend a meeting called by Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar ahead of the Winter session of Parliament. He was also not seen in action in Himachal Pradesh. There appears no scope for him to campaign in Gujarat.

Kharge had made his appearance in the Himachal Pradesh elections in the last few days. Rahul Gandhi had skipped the state poll campaigning. It appears that Congress has gone local in the Assembly elections, staying away from the limelight, leaving state leaders to lead the campaign on the local issues.

“Media only says that Congress faces losses when Rahul Gandhi campaigns. Now that he is staying away, the media still complains,” said a senior Congress functionary, who is part of the inner circle of the former chief of the opposition party.

The sense that one gathers is that Congress is wary of handing over any alibi to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to exploit the Gujarati asmita card, as had been the case with Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ‘Neech’ in 2017, ‘Zaher ki kheti’ Sonia Gandhi in previous elections and so on. This leaves Modi to keep repeating ‘aukat’ remark of Congress’ Madhusdan Mistry, but that appears hardly resonating with the electorate. By staying away from the campaign turf, Congress hopes to deny the BJP any pretext to play the emotional card.

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