The Congress began its poll journey this year by going back to its old office in the Lal Darwaza area of the city. In April, the party had shifted its city district headquarters (popularly known as City Office) from Khanpur to Lal Darwaza to regaining its past glory — Sardar Smriti Bhavan used to be its headquarters during its golden reign in Gujarat. Many old-timers in the party have fond memories of the place, and the party thought this move would invigorate the workers. In the past four decades, Congress' city district office functioned from Firdaus Flat in Khanpur.
Some 70-odd workers gathered outside this “new” office to burst crackers on Saturday and shouted slogans as a show of confidence ahead of the results.
Senior state Congress leader Himanshu Vyas sounded confident amid all the revelry. “Our internal calculations show that we are winning 124 seats. Last time, there were around 22 seats in which the Congress had won with margins of less than 5,000 votes. The BJP, too, had won in a similar number of low-margin seats. These seats can swing either way.”
In Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee office at Paldi, a handful of workers were diligently making notes and preparing a plan for deploying workers at the counting stations. Television sets showed scenes from New Delhi, as Rahul Gandhi was elevated as Congress president. The mood was that of cautious optimism but there was some ground-level rejuvenation as the Gandhi scion took centre stage.
The BJP state headquarters, Shri Kamalam — a sprawling campus at Koba (Gandhinagar) — was almost empty on Saturday morning. By afternoon, it was brimming with 400-450 party workers and senior leaders. Separate tables were set for north, south and central regions, workers served tea and snacks in buffet counters and senior party leaders addressed the cadre.
A party worker said: “Two workers have come from each of the 182 constituencies. A lawyer would be assigned to each constituency. The leaders will explain all the technicalities to them.”
When asked about a Vijay Yatra (victory rally), a party worker said: “Nothing concrete yet. Supporters and workers would take out rallies spontaneously. Anyway, the picture would be clear at 12 noon on Monday.” The BJP’s celebrations would be fine-tuned to the poll verdict.
Party chief Jitu Vaghani, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy CM Nitin Patel and state-in-charge Bhupender Yadav met party candidates and counting agents. Former chief minister Anandiben Patel was conspicuous by her absence.
Not a single photograph or hoarding showing her could be spotted at Kamalam which otherwise was sporting huge pictures, banners and quotes of national
and state-level party leaders.
Several in the party were cautious of the victory margin. “Saurashtra will be a challenge. Which national
leader will fly down from Delhi after voting will depend on by how many seats we win,” said another worker.