Congress not to project a CM candidate in Gujarat

Congress may have projected Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh but it has no such plans for Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where elections are due next year. 

A senior Congress leader said the party is unlikely to have a chief ministerial face in Gujarat in order to ensure that the state leaders contest the polls unitedly.

Congress has been out of power since 1989 in Gujarat, often referred to as the Hindutva laboratory of the BJP.

There are many aspirants for chief ministership in the Congress, including Shankersinh Vaghela, the leader of the opposition in the state and a former Chief Minister.

Vaghela had become the chief minister for a short while two decades ago with Congress' backing after he parted ways with the BJP and formed a regional outfit. Later he merged his party with the Congress.

PCC Chief Bharatsinh Solanki is a former Union Minister and son of party veteran and former Chief Minister Madhavsinh Solanki, who was credited with building a winning coalition of KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasis, Minorities) for the Congress over 30 years back. Solanki is also a prominent contender for the post.

So is AICC spokesman Shaktisinh Gohil, a former leader of opposition in the state assembly and one of the most strident critics of Modi for long.

Congress leaders say the party does not want to name a chief ministerial candidate as it feels it would give rise to factionalism and bickering at a time when the BJP has lost some ground in rural areas to the main opposition entity during the Panchayat polls.

In Uttar Pradesh, former Delhi CM Shiela Dikshit has been anointed Congress' chief ministerial candidate apparently to cash in on her pro-development image as also to woo the sizeable Brahmin vote bank.

In Punjab, former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has been made the PCC Chief and declared the 'face' of the party which is locked in a keen tussle with Arvind Kejriwal's AAP on one hand and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine on the other.

While Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are scheduled early next year, those in Gujarat would take place towards the end.

Congress had registered an impressive victory last year when it won 21 out of 31 district panchayats, while BJP could manage just six. The remaining local bodies delivered a hung verdict.

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