Rahul Throws Down Gujarat Gauntlet before PM Modi: Why The State Matters

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. File pics

Rahul Gandhi has one goal — to humble the Prime Minister — and he thinks the beginning must be made from Gujarat, which is Narendra Modi’s home turf

For the Congress in Gujarat, the latest slogan is “Daabon Aapo” or put pressure. This is for the Bharatiya Janata Party which has been ruling the state for over three decades. But now leader of the opposition Rahul Gandhi has made it a mission. He has told his party colleagues “daabon aapo” or put pressure on the BJP. Rahul Gandhi has one goal — to humble the Prime Minister — and he thinks the beginning must be made from Gujarat, which is Narendra Modi’s home turf.

Rahul’s mind became clear during the motion of thanks speech in the Lok Sabha when he looked the PM in the eye and told him what the fate of the BJP would be in Modi’s home state. “We will defeat you there too. Next time Congress will win,” he said. The state polls are far away in 2027 but the immediate challenge is in the local polls to be held in about 15 months.

Why is Rahul Gandhi focusing on a state where the Congress is comatose and saw one of its worst performances in the last assembly polls of 2022? It’s also a state where the Congress has seen big-ticket exits to the BJP and the entry of its Delhi ally Aam Aadmi Party. AAP hurt the Congress in the Gujarat polls where it used to be a straight fight between the grand old party and the BJP. Most of the “young boys” Rahul fielded before 2022 like Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakore have left the Congress.

In 2017, the Congress did put up a strong fight against the BJP but certain factors such as the “neech” comment by Mani Shankar Aiyar for the PM proved decisive. Modi played the “son of the soil” and “Gujarati asmita” cards and swung the results in favour of the BJP. The party looks invincible today with an iron grip on local and state polls.

So why is Rahul Gandhi eyeing Gujarat and why did he choose to travel to the state after the Parliament session and meet party workers injured in clashes with alleged BJP cadres? Because a loss in Gujarat for the BJP, Rahul feels, would be the ultimate or last jolt to the PM. A win here is and will not be like any other. It’s the harshest blow he hopes to deliver to the Prime Minister. A Congress leader said, “It’s like the loss of the Gandhis in Amethi. That loss hurt them more than the party’s poor performance in 2019.”

So the LoP has a plan. Weed out the old guard who according to him have become fossils and “wedding dancers” who don’t do much. He wants to rope in young talent and one can expect an organisational reshuffle soon. Also, he has expected seniors to contest and some like Shaktisinh Gohil are in charge. The Congress also has increased its vote percentage in the state, especially in rural and adivasi areas.

Rahul Gandhi, it seems, wants to be like the woodpecker, slowly chipping away at the BJP. And his single-minded almost personal fight against the PM has made him focus on this western state. The ultimate setback to Modi would be the BJP losing in his home ground. And that would be, in the mind of Rahul Gandhi, the decisive blow to the asmita of the PM and the BJP.

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