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Congress on winning side in Jharkhand but questions on relevance of Gandhis remain

In the highly-charged Jharkhand election, where ruling BJP was battling anti-incumbency, Rahul Gandhi held 5 events, while PM Modi held 8 rallies and Amit Shah 11.

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New Delhi: The Congress party is once again defying electoral expectations and looks set to double its assembly seat tally in Jharkhand, the poll results for which are being declared Monday.

As of 3.30 pm, according to the Election Commission website, the Congress was ahead in 14 seats while allies JMM and RJD were ahead in 29 and three seats respectively. The alliance is on course to form the government in the 81-member assembly.

The Congress figure is over double the six seats that the party managed in the 2014 assembly elections and is nearly half of the 31 seats it contested in these polls.

This, despite the fact that the party’s top leadership was found lacking again.

In the highly-charged election, where the ruling BJP was battling an anti-incumbency wave, former party chief Rahul Gandhi held only five events. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the other hand, held around eight rallies in Jharkhand, while Home Minister Amit Shah held around 11.

Rahul even took off to South Korea before the final phase of the five-phase state elections, prompting his sister and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi to step in and address a rally at Pakur on 18 December along with JMM chief Hemant Soren.

Critics say Rahul lacks a ‘killer instinct’ when it comes to attacking the BJP in states where the ruling party is on a sticky wicket and say his lack of involvement has led to questions about the family’s relevance to the Congress’ electoral politics.

“His (Rahul Gandhi’s) foreign visits are helping the Congress party electorally,” said his former aide Pankaj Shanker. “The Gandhi family’s only relevance is that it binds the party together.”

Political analyst Sandeep Shastri echoed a similar sentiment. “Congress needs to realise that the party’s central leadership unites the party but doesn’t get it votes. That is the story for the BJP too,” he said. “The focus should now be empowering local leaders.”

A Congress functionary in Jharkhand, however, was quick to counter the criticism levelled against Rahul.

“His five rallies, of course, swayed public sentiment in our favour,” said the functionary. “People are dying to host them (Rahul and Priyanka). It would have been one thing if they had participated in rallies for most candidates but we had so many requests, we had to say no. They remain 100 per cent relevant.”

Also read: Why Priyanka Gandhi made a surprise last-minute dash to Jharkhand 

‘Congress could have done more’ 

In Maharashtra and Haryana, the Congress central leadership had kept its distance from the assembly elections, leaving it to local stalwarts to shepherd the party. The local leadership rose to the challenge, helping the party fare better than was expected.

In Jharkhand, while two of the Gandhi family members did campaign, their presence has been tantamount to ‘tokenism’, say critics. The party had its task cut out in the state, where it has a peripheral presence. Many of its senior leaders had also jumped ship to join the BJP, including former state chief Sukhdeo Bhagat, ahead of the assembly elections. It is Soren’s JMM that set the tone for the opposition alliance.

“I agree Congress could have done more,” said political analyst Sudha Pai. “But it is too much to expect an unwell Sonia Gandhi to campaign in the state. Rahul could have led from the front and maybe the party would’ve won a few more seats. But this election was more about local issues.”

A Congress functionary, on the condition of anonymity, told ThePrint that Rahul had made ‘zero contribution’ to the election campaign. “The only thing he gave them (Jharkhand Congress) was a leadership crisis in the form of Ajoy Kumar.”

A former civil servant, Kumar was handpicked by Rahul to lead the party in the state. The party faced a critical situation when he quit as state chief, levelling serious allegations against his colleagues soon after the Lok Sabha debacle.

Also read: ‘Govt using brute force, suppressing dissent’ — Sonia Gandhi attacks BJP over CAA protests 

‘Limited role in Jharkhand’

According to Shastri, one can’t comment on the Congress central leadership being found lacking in Jharkhand as the party played second fiddle to the JMM.

“Given the fact that in Jharkhand, the JMM was leading the alliance, it is difficult to assume that the Congress leadership didn’t play a role,” Shastri said. “It would be true if the Congress was leading the alliance. In Jharkhand, they had a limited role.”

For political analyst and the author of Sonia: A Biography, Rasheed Kidwai, the three elections are very different.

“In Maharashtra and Haryana, the central leadership was indifferent,” said Kidwai. “Moreover, less participation in Jharkhand is a carefully calculated move because the party did not want to outshine Hemant Soren. We can’t ignore that the relevance of the Gandhi family comes from its political acumen as well as political campaigning. There is a demand for them.”

Pai also added that the credit for the alliance had to be put at Rahul’s door.

“Congress is getting support. But we have to admit it is Rahul who stitched the alliance,” Pai said. “Haryana and Maharashtra came soon after he quit as party chief, perhaps he didn’t see himself as the leader then. But Congress’ wasn’t a very important role to play here, the election was about the local parties like JMM.”

Also read: Like other Congress CMs, Kamal Nath says MP won’t implement citizenship law


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  1. Did not waste time reading the article. Without Gandhis what is the glue between Congress in Up and Karnataka? Or for that matter Congress in Maharashtra and Odisha? Who else has any pan India leader

  2. Ms Priyashmita Guha has tweeted : Congress loses. Shivam Vij and Ruhi will say RG must resign. Congress wins. Shivam Vij and Ruhi will say RG must resign.

  3. Whatever rahul does these media people will find faults with it,it was said the pm campaigned so much because he knew they were loosing,so why compare him with how many rahul did….nonsensical comparison and whatever he does these people have to make a mountain out of a mole hill….he attacked the bjp well,isn’t that why there was furor in the parliament about rape in india,if you are so biased,you will sound so dumb in article

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