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Did Rahul Gandhi’s near-absence from campaign help Congress in Haryana, Maharashtra?

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed only six campaign rallies while Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi did not attend any in the Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections.

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed only six campaign rallies while Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi did not attend any in the Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections. By comparison, PM Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah addressed over 25 rallies. Though it lost both the states, the Congress’ performance was better than expected. But Rahul Gandhi did not make any statement after the results were declared on Thursday.

ThePrint asks: Did Rahul Gandhi’s near-absence from campaign help Congress in Haryana, Maharashtra?

The Congress is a bit like Belgium, better off without someone at the helm

Gilles Verniers
Co-Director, Trivedi Centre for Political Data and assistant professor, Ashoka University

In recent times, the Congress party has performed better in states where it has a semblance of on-the-ground organisation, recognisable regional leadership, and where its national leadership stayed away from campaigning in the elections.

Whenever the party high command led a campaign, it failed to leave an imprint on people, and did not connect substantially with voters, or even galvanise the Congress workers.

The election results in Punjab, Karnataka and Haryana illustrate well how the Congress is better off when it leaves the operations in the hands of capable regional leaders.

Even in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the election campaigns were led by the party’s local figures who do have experience, recognition and who stand for something more tangible than what the top leaders of the Congress do.

This is no guarantee for success as the Maharashtra election outcome shows, but it is the only way out for a party like Congress that fights for national relevance. This does not mean that there isn’t a place for accommodating a national narrative or that the party does not require strong national leadership. If it cannot figure out these two things, then the Congress party should let its regional branches do the talking, and focus on building local strength where it has none. This, however, cannot proceed from a top-down approach.

In the current political context, the Congress is a bit like Belgium, better off without someone at the helm.

Rahul Gandhi now more like any other party member, so cut him slack

Zainab Sikander
Political Observer

It’s not even about Rahul Gandhi, but it’s about the Congress leaders he delegated responsibility to in the campaign in each state. Ashok Tanwar was his choice, but he resigned. Whatever little Rahul Gandhi campaigned, it turned out to be irrelevant.

The preparations made by the Pradesh Congress Committee played a more important role in these elections, but that is one area where Rahul Gandhi didn’t make good choices. But Sonia Gandhi does make good decisions in these.

It’s the old guard of the Congress that has come out with flying colours. Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s performance in Haryana speaks volumes about the extent of his influence. He has got a strong base of supporters.

The BJP gets a vote in the name of its leader PM Narendra Modi, but it’s not the same for the Congress. The latter has regional leaders like Sachin Pilot and Ashoka Gehlot who have the potential to make a huge difference.

Currently, there is a lot of unfair emphasis on Rahul Gandhi’s participation in election campaigns. Now that he is no longer the Congress President, he has become just another party member, but people still love to hate him. We need to cut him some slack. In fact, the Congress’ interim President Sonia Gandhi should be held accountable because she is the one in power. Her giving campaigns and rallies a miss is a more serious concern.

Rahul Gandhi has got the party ideology right, which becomes evident during instances such as the Modi government’s move in Jammu and Kashmir.  The 2019 Lok Sabha elections have put him on a back foot. His primary role is to work within the party and strengthen it.

Rahul Gandhi did campaign in both Haryana and Maharashtra. This is a false narrative

Brijesh Kalappa
Congress Spokesperson

There’s no question about anybody’s absence helping the party, least of all Rahul Gandhi’s. He did campaign in both Haryana and Maharashtra, so there is no point in creating a false narrative. In fact, he is working the hardest in the Congress party. He raised the Rafale issue and reiterated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cheated the nation.

The BJP is trying to portray as if there is a rift between Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. This is completely malicious. The point is that Rahul Gandhi has done extraordinarily well. It was under his leadership that the Congress won Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. So, it’s not fair to say that the Haryana and Maharashtra election results somehow indicate that Rahul Gandhi’s absence is required for the Congress to do well. He has a very important part to play in the Congress’ endeavour to fight back. Nobody’s role in the party, however small, can be discounted. We need all hands on deck.

PM Modi is only wasting his time attending rallies. He has not done something great by campaigning for his party in one state after another. PM Modi should instead be working on the economy and for Indian citizens. He should start by accepting that India’s economy has stagnated and that jobs, industrial growth and people’s prosperity are in serious peril.

Also read: Do Maharashtra and Haryana election results show that the opposition is not dead in India?

Congress does better because of its regional leaders. Rahul Gandhi should focus on his vipassana

Shivam Vij
Contributing editor, ThePrint

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed only a few rallies in Maharashtra and Haryana. He was not supposed to do them. He went off to Cambodia to meditate and on his way back changed his mind. He was so unprepared that he didn’t even mention the PMC bank crisis in his speech during his Mumbai rally on 13 October, one of the top issues in Maharashtra.

The Congress hasn’t done well in Maharashtra. It had done better than expected in Haryana. Nevertheless, it has lost both states. The Congress hasn’t been completely wiped out as it was expected. This is when Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi didn’t campaign at all.

Brand Gandhi is at a historic low. Rightly or wrongly, Rahul Gandhi’s image is so poor that he puts people off. He does not resonate with voters anymore, the gaffes and fake news showing him in a bad light have tarnished his image beyond repair. However, the Congress party as such is not seen by voters as irredeemable.

Maharashtra and Haryana have shown the need for the Congress to have strong regional leaders who could help revive the party. The more Rahul Gandhi keeps away from the stage, the better it will be for the Congress. A useful comparison is the 2017 Karnataka assembly elections where Rahul Gandhi hogged the limelight, undermining the Congress’s strongest face, Siddaramaiah.

When the Congress does better, it is thanks to regional leaders, Brand Gandhi will rise on its own. Until such time, Rahul Gandhi should focus on vipassana.

As long as the voter is served Rahul Gandhi as the face of Congress, the party will continue to suffer

Ruhi Tewari
News Editor, ThePrint

If there’s one clarity Congress’ performance in Haryana and Maharashtra elections offers, it is that the party’s scion Rahul Gandhi should be best kept at bay in the run-up to elections. The former Congress president is a liability for his party, giving his rivals an easy target, and the voters a leader they do not find desirable.

In both the states, and particularly in Haryana, Rahul Gandhi stayed largely away from campaigning. Those in the Congress who don’t want to see how his presence weighs the party down are behaving like ostriches in the sandstorm. As long as the voter is served Rahul Gandhi as the face of the Congress, the party will continue to suffer reverses — the 2019 Lok Sabha elections being a case in point.

In states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and now Haryana — where local leaders took charge and where Gandhi wasn’t the primary factor — the Congress managed an impressive electoral show.

The question isn’t whether Rahul Gandhi has more integrity than other party leaders or if he is a principled, ‘decent ‘ politician. It is whether he embodies the qualities of a politician at all. He lacks direction, focus and seriousness.

Rahul Gandhi and the hustings don’t share a happy relationship, and the sooner the Congress realises that, the sooner it can begin to resurrect.

Also read: Modi’s glitter intact after Haryana & Maharashtra wins, but there’s news for Amit Shah

By Taran Deol, journalist at ThePrint

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  1. The complete absence of “Print” until recently helped RSS goondas in check. Can we assume the provocator’s absence would have helped now to speedily eliminateRSS?? ????

  2. What everybody is missing out is a larger picture here. Rahul Gandhi’s decision to keep away the lime light is a nicely planned strategy. By one master stroke he took away the zing out of BJP campaign. So long as he was there it was easier for the BJP to campaign. With his disappearance from the scene BJP was suddenly found wanting. Article 370 was not an local issue, but they again played the nationalism card. That logic faultered at the regional level. Rahul Gandhi will make a timely comeback, for he is a committed leader.
    Just wait. Things are going to get tougher for BJP.

  3. In the last pirlament election , they won 200 seats with 50 percent votes in just 4/5 month ago. So most analyst thought it will be a cake walk. Rahulji tried heavily that time & raised pertinent questions. But he lost against media money power and strong organization which raised national security as the main issue. This time he may have mis read the situation. But he remains the most popular leader among 8 crore voters who voted for Congress party last time. But who says the journalyst are impartial?

    • You’ve got to be kidding. The comedian in chief should start his own TV show and it should be called Goofy’s World.

      • we saw a similar channel from a baba right before elections and channel disappeared as soon as elections were over. You got to listen Raga interviews before election and compare it to Namo’s. But yeah since your information source is WA you ll not know the difference and if you try to watch now you ll not understand anything as your brain has been filled hate and bigotry.

  4. The Congress now looks as a party without a head. And, if there is a head, it is incapable of thinking. They gave up the fight even before the elections were announced, predicting a BJP manipulation of EVMs as a ready made excuse for losing. Rahul has no stomach for any election fights, nor any capacity to ‘speak’ logically. He only parrots inane and silly things like Pickpocket, Chor. Suit Boot etc at Modi. He is NOT a leader and will NEVER be one.” The Family” has completely failed the party..

    • Thats the BJP propaganda winning ….he has spoken logically consistently critiquing many aspects of the regime but ofcourse that is not higlighted..( as if modi has gems like cloudy radars to say instead of inane stuff !!!!) ….all leaders have to make certain punches. Rahul has proven himself to be intelligent , hard working and committed to an anti right wing politics despite relentless abuse, ridicule and propaganda. he brought immense organisational changes too. Its people’s lossif they are unable to see what is undert their nose and are swayed by propaganda ….any interview of rahul’s anyday shows his far superior understanding . Like Imran who was dismissed earlier, he will also rise from teh ashes one day …

  5. Albatross,if it were to be removed the results would be immediate .You just have to look across the aisle to see the difference , former congressmen are being led to victory by a hardcore RSS man .My own theory is most organizations are the same with one or two people making all the difference .BJP has Modi and Congress has Rahul and it adds up for the BJP , it is 2X.

  6. I think the new gaurd under Rahul Gandhi laid the way for this election by the pre 2019 compaign they ran consolidating a counter BJP narrative which is bearing fruit now after the blitzkering of BJP during 2019 has settled down and economic distress has sunk in. It would be foolish to dismiss the ground work that was laid down by the organisational set up, the efforts of teh new gaurd under Rahul just because it didnt all come together with the BJP ‘s all out attack in 2019 elections , it takes time for things to sink in and the fact that this happened despite no work being done by the congress this time in this election shows its not the old gaurd or Rahul’s absence which helped but an anti BJP sentiment the grounds for which were laid down earlier which are slowly coming to roost. The fact that the old gaurd also has managed to keep the party afloat this election ( one must not forget the victories under Rahul and the old gaurd when MP,chattisgarh and Rajasthan were won were more convincing.). This makes the case for the old and new gaurd to come together possibly led by Sonia and Rahul ( since they are the only leaders in congress with teh authority to resolve this old gaurd new gaurd impasse ) . They have both shown leadership qualities in face of a right wing onslaught and the recent elections provide hope that the old and the new coing together might actually be the way ahead for congress.

  7. Had Rahul canvassed extensively ,Congress / its allies atleast would have come nearer to midpoint. /Half the mark

  8. Whenever Rahul Gandhi campaigns (parachutes down from his Olympian abode) he merely muddies the water with his obsession on Rafale and such other esoteric issues which do not cut ice with common people. Local leaders know what’s the buzz on ground and therefore can tune their campaign narrative accordingly.
    What this state election indicates is that there is still space for relevant opposition parties if they work hard to focus on simmering discontent that lies beneath ‘all is well’. Congress still has hope of reviving itself, sans the Gandhi dynasty. Forget the grand national picture, instead they ought to focus on rebuilding the party at local level, and most important give local leaders space to grow. Easier said than done considering the psychological hold the Gandhi name has on emasculated Congress leaders.

  9. As they say, Your presence will be ignored but your absence will be noted. 2. I don’t think there is a single constituency in Maharashtra where the outcome would tilt towards the Congress if Shri Rahul Gandhi were to campaign. That may hold true pan India as well. However, the Congress is still a political actor and its reins are held by the Gandhi family. For him to take a foreign vacation just when the camper is starting sends a dispiriting message to the cadre. 3. It was RG’s duty to do more for his party and to be seen doing it. The Congress deserves better mentors.

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