Hoping to reassure the tribals, whom the BJP is trying to woo, the Congress has tweaked its strategy for the community, which has backed the Opposition party for decades. Instead of a tribal awareness foot march, the Congress is launching a reach-out programme for the community starting with the first rally at Khedbrahma, near Ambaji temple on Monday. Four more rallies will be held over the coming days. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is expected to attend the rallies during the last leg.
Gandhi has already deputed Siddharth Patel, son of former chief minister Chimanbhai Patel, to connect with the Patel community leaders and try to bring as many of them into the fold. In areas where the community leaders owe allegiance to Hardik Patel, the Congress would be open to let the rebel leader play.
The fallout of the Patel unrest is a cause of worry for the BJP too though party chief Amit Shah is bullish on retaining his home state. Miffed over former chief minister Anandiben Patel’s handling of the Patel movement, which turned violent, the BJP had replaced her with Vijay Rupani in 2016.
Congress leaders said, besides the widespread anger against the BJP among the Patels, the other communities too have been at the receiving end of the party for decades. The poor social development indicators, too, are a cause of concern for the BJP despite the image of a developed state enjoyed by Gujarat for long.
After its alliance with the Samajwadi Party failed to stop the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, Gandhi is keen to disrupt the party’s onward march in Gujarat as a defeat in PM Modi and Shah’s home state would send out a strong message nationwide. However, that is easier said than done. The Congress lacks a popular face in the state, needs to curb infighting and launch an aggressive campaign to reverse its fortunes in Gujarat. In comparison, the BJP has already decided to play the polarisation card by naming Hindutva poster boy and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as its star campaigner.