The Congress central leadership’s decision to send former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot to work for the party in Gujarat is a strategic one, say Congress sources.
Many in the party had blamed Gehlot for the crushing defeat in last year's assembly election. Gehlot has since been ignored by the party which chose Sachin Pilot as the state Congress president and gave more importance to the Congress General Secretary C P Joshi.
When candidates were being finalised for the Lok Sabha election, Gehlot's nominees were ignored. Gehlot’s son Vaibhav, a law graduate, who sought a ticket from either Tonk-Sawaimadhopur and Jalore-Sirohi, was also ignored.
A day prior to Holi, Gehlot confined himself to his new house in Jaipur’s civil lines which is just opposite to Vasundhara Raje's house. He had just returned from Delhi where he got a cold shoulder and hence he did not celebrate Holi pretending to be ill. A large number of people who had gone to greet him were told that he was not well and would not meet anybody.
The long silence was broken when he went to Dausa where the Union minister for finance Namo Narayan Meena was filing his nomination. There was a large crowd at the rally which was addressed by not only Gehlot, but Pilot also. But Gehlot knew that with young PCC president's Sachin Pilot's at the helm, the generational shift in the party would ensure that he does not dabble in state politics.
Gehlot’s supporters say that he is being sent on a special mission to Gujarat. The Congress is hoping to perform well on the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s home turf. There is speculation about an Intelligence Bureau report that suggests that the party would win 10 out of the 26 seats and these seats are located in the central, south, north and the Saurashtra region.
"The IB report suggests that the Congress is strongly pitched in Anand, Chhota Udaipur, Dahod, Bharuch, Bardoli, Sabarkantha and Surendra Nagar. The Congress is also strong in the tribal belt adjoining Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh," said Shiv Charan Mali, a close associate of Gehlot.
The Gehlot camp feels that if he manages to ensure that the party would win the projected 10 seats in Gujarat, he would have some face to show in the party. In his own state, which is now controlled by Pilot and Joshi, the Congress is unlikely to win more than five out of the 25 seats.