Home Politics Assembly polls: Can Cong upset BJP, BRS applecart? 

Assembly polls: Can Cong upset BJP, BRS applecart? 

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Assembly polls: Can Cong upset BJP, BRS applecart? 
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge (middle), Netta D’Souza, Mahila Congress (right), K C Venugopal, General Secretary (left).

In response to aggressive campaigning by the Congress in MP and Telangana, the ruling parties in the two states, BJP and BRS, respectively, try to steal the grand old party’s thunder by announcing the first list of candidates even before the election schedule is announced, writes Amit Agnihotri

The Congress has finally announced its reconstituted Working Committee which will take on the BJP in the coming five assembly polls this year ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

The states that will have assembly polls later this year are Madhya Pradesh ruled by BJP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh ruled by Congress, Telangana ruled by BRS and Mizoram ruled by MNF. The Congress directly fights the BJP in three states Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and MP.

After getting elected to the top party post, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge had dissolved the previous CWC as per party rules. The new CWC had been awaited since the election of Kharge was approved during the Plenary Session held at Chhattisgarh’s Raipur in February.

The recast CWC has 39 full time members, 18 permanent invitees and 9 special invitees. Earlier, the party used to have 24 members in the top body.

In a first, the CWC has 15 women members including former party chief Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra besides veterans like Ambika Soni, Kumari Selja, Meira Kumar, Rajani Patil, Deepa Das Munshi, Pratibha Singh, Meenakshi Natarajan, Phulo Devi Netam, Yashomati Thakur, Praniti Shinde, Supriya Shrinate, Alka Lamba and Netta D’Souza.

“Our leader Sonia Gandhi has always been committed to women’s empowerment through greater representation within the party and during ticket distribution. The reconstituted CWC which has 15 women members is a step in that direction. It is historic,” CWC member Kumari Selja said.

“This inclusion will go a long way towards encouraging women workers in the party and will attract women outside the party to join and support us,” she said.

Over the past year, under the guidance of Priyanka Gandhi, the Congress has been coming out with separate manifestos for the women voters in states like Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka where its focused approach brought in rich electoral dividends. The party is adopting the similar strategy for poll bound Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Telangana in a bid to defeat the BJP, which rules in MP.

The Congress inducted former deputy chief minister of Rajasthan Sachin Pilot in the CWC in an attempt to achieve balance between him and chief minister Ashok Gehlot. The Gehlot-Pilot power tussle has been bothering the Congress party for long and Pilot’s promotion as a CWC member would send the right signal among his supporters in Rajasthan.

The Congress has launched aggressive campaigns in Madhya Pradesh and Telangana where it is in the opposition against the ruling BJP and BRS respectively.

The party is repeating its template of social welfare guarantees and corruption charges which it had tried successfully in Karnataka, to turn the tables on the ruling parties in Telangana and MP.

Impacted by the Congress aggression, the BJP held a strategy session to discuss the coming assembly polls. In a surprise move, the BJP announced the first list of candidates for Chhattisgarh and Madya Pradesh much ahead of the polls likely to be held later this year.

Union home minister Amit Shah is directly supervising the MP polls and has made several visits to the state over the past weeks. The MP BJP leaders lodged 41 FIRs against Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other senior party leaders which the opposition said was part of political vendetta.

The Congress became aggressive and instead came out with a detailed corruption rate card of Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, alleging it was charging 50 percent commission for all types of work.

Later, during a rally, Amit Shah challenged the Congress to give a report card of the past 50 years even as the PM blamed the opposition party for indulging in corruption.

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge hit back at Shah, without naming him, pointing that the various IITs, IIMs, and other institutions had been built by the previous Congress governments in the state.

Kharge also targeted the BJP by saying that the saffron party was avoiding the caste census and promised that if the Congress came to power it will conduct a caste census in the state. The attempt of the grand old party is to rake up the OBC reservation issue and mobilize the community in the poll-bound state.

The Congress has said it is facing a rush of ticket seekers in the poll-bound states and has intensified surveys to identify the most suitable candidates in the respective states.

According to party leaders, the names that will be shortlisted by the state units based on these field surveys will soon be scrutinized by the respective screening committees and will then be forwarded to the Central Election Committee headed by Kharge for final approval.

The Congress which is campaigning in the four states aggressively plans to announce the first list of candidates in Madhya Pradesh and Telangana, where the party is in opposition, in September to have an early bird advantage.

On August 18, the BJP tweaked strategy and announced its first list of 21/90 names in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh and 39/230 names in Madhya Pradesh, where the grand old party was attacking the ruling BJP aggressively.

A day after the BJP’s move, the Congress held a meeting of the political affairs committee for Chhattisgarh on Aug 19 to discuss the selection of candidates, among other things.

“The party is strong and the government has delivered on most of the poll promises. We are confident of winning 75/90 seats this time,” AICC secretary in charge of organization KC Venugopal said.

The political affairs committees for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana have already met over the past week to discuss selection of candidates.

“The focus is on winnability. There is a rush of ticket seekers as they see the Congress is on a comeback trail. A lot of surveys are going on in the state. Some are being carried out by the state unit, some by the ticket aspirants but the one being conducted by PCC chief Kamal Nath alone will carry weight. We plan to announce the first list in September which will mostly cover the difficult seats the party has not been winning for long,” senior MP Congress leader Shobha Oza said.

In Rajasthan, the AICC managers have received a suggestion from a section of the workers that MLAs who are suffering from anti-incumbency should not be given tickets this time. To deal with this problem, the three AICC secretaries in charge of the state Qazi Nizamuddin, Virendra Rathore and Amrita Dhawan have toured across the constituencies over the past weeks to get a feel of the situation on the ground.

In Telangana, the Congress has started taking applications from the ticket aspirants who have to pay a fee of Rs 50,000. However, the fee is Rs 25,000 for aspirants belonging to the SC/ST category.

“There is a rush of aspirants. The idea behind the fee is to get applications only from serious candidates. A lot of surveys are being conducted to identify the potential candidates,” AICC in charge of Telangana Manikrao Thakre said.

Feeling the pressure from an aggressive Congress, the ruling BRS has announced candidates for the coming assembly polls ahead of its rivals to put up a brave front. But the BRS suffers from infighting and several party leaders have joined the Congress over the past weeks. The Congress says this is an indicator of which way the political wind was blowing.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel slammed the Centre over the ED raids on his aides and said that the BJP was trying to defame the state government and misusing the central agencies to harass the Congress workers.

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