With the upcoming assembly polls seen as a semi-final before the 2024 general elections, the Congress is set to go all-out to win the high-stakes contest in five states which will not only be a test of the party’s prowess at the hustings but also decide its bargaining capacity within the INDIA bloc.
Understanding that the assembly polls could be the game-changer for the 2024 Lok Sabha contest, the Congress has hit the ground running in the poll-bound states and is firming up its strategy with “poll guarantees” and demand for a caste census being the main poll planks.
The grand old party is looking to retain power in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh while seeking to come to power in the other three states going to polls — Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Mizoram.
With the five poll-bound states having a total of 83 Lok Sabha seats, electoral performance in these states is bound to have some bearing on the parliamentary elections. However in 2019, the Congress had won the assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, but had a dismal showing in the Lok Sabha elections a few months later.
Reacting to the announcement of the polls, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the party will go to the people with strength and outlined public welfare, social justice and progressive development as its guarantees.
Addressing party leaders at a crucial meeting of the Congress Working Committee, Mr Kharge called for unity and discipline ahead of polls.
“As we approach the upcoming assembly elections and general elections, it is important that the party works with meticulous coordination and complete discipline and unity,” he said at the meeting.
Mr Kharge also underlined the need for an effective strategy for assembly polls in the five states. He said there is renewed enthusiasm among cadre after decisive victories in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, while stressing the need to put in “all our might” to win in the five states.
The Congress leadership is confident of a good showing in the polls but is also aware of the daunting challenges that lie in the run up to the elections in the Hindi heartland states especially Rajasthan.
Exuding confidence about a good showing, Rahul Gandhi had said late last month that as of now the Congress is certainly winning Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, probably winning Telangana, and there is a “very close” contest in Rajasthan in which the party believes it will emerge victorious.
Asked about the party’s chances, Mr Gandhi had said, “I would say, right now, we are probably winning Telangana, we are certainly winning Madhya Pradesh, we are certainly winning Chhattisgarh. Rajasthan, we are very close, and we think we will be able to win. That is what it is looking like, and by the way, that is also what the BJP internally is saying.”
A day after Mr Gandhi’s remarks, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had asserted he will ensure bigger victory of the party in the state than in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
“He (Rahul Gandhi) has thrown us a challenge and we accept it. We will show him that Rajasthan will surpass MP and Chhattisgarh in the party’s victory,” Mr Gehlot had said.
The party seems to be facing a daunting task in Rajasthan where the revolving door trend has reigned for nearly three decades. Though, both the Congress and the BJP are facing some level of infighting, they have publicly put up a united face realising that the election could be tight.
In Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress seems to be on a better wicket. It is hoping to return to power in Chhattisgarh on the back of welfare schemes for the poor while in Madhya Pradesh it is eyeing a return to the helm after its government was toppled in 2020.
In Telangana, the Congress is seeking to wrest power from a dominant K Chandrashekhar Rao government of the BRS with the BJP making it a three-cornered contest.
In Mizoram, the Mizo National Front is in power with the Congress having just five seats in the 40-member assembly, but the grand old party is seeking a resurgence in the northeast with a good showing in this state.
The Congress’ performance in the assembly polls will not only impact its standing as an opposition party taking on the BJP in 2024 but also affect its bargaining power vis-s-vis other alliance partners of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA).
Significantly, seat sharing among the partners in the bloc was to be finalised soon after the Mumbai meeting ended on September 1 but it seems that any significant movement on that front is likely to happen only after the assembly polls which would have a bearing on the bargaining by various parties.
The Congress is hoping to ride its welfare “guarantees” and caste census promise to ensure that it enters the ‘finals’ in 2024 as a formidable challenger to the BJP and not as a minnow making up the numbers.
(This story has not been edited by String Reveals staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)