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WB polls will further put to test 'Rahul effect'

Last updated on: December 14, 2010 15:33 IST

Bengal polls will further put to test 'Rahul effect'

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Swati Garg in Kolkata

Rahul Gandhi, the All-India Congress Committee general-secretary and the man leading the revival of the party's youth wing, may have suffered a setback in the Bihar assembly elections. But his supporters are putting a distance between the Congress defeat and the 'Rahul effect'.

The Congress contested all the 243 constituencies in Bihar. Of these, Gandhi campaigned in 21. The party lost in all but one.

There were assertions within the party that elections in the Bihar Youth Congress were hijacked by local hoodlums; that the process was not democratic; and, worst of all, many elected to office in Bihar had criminal records. "The only prerequisite for one to be a member of the Youth Congress is that they have no criminal record," Gandhi had said in Kolkata last month.

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Image: Rahul Gandhi speaks with Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee during a public rally in Kolkata
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
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The national Congress leadership, for its part, stands firmly beside the 'Rahul dream', but is trying to justify its electoral setback by explaining that it had nothing to do with Gandhi.

National Youth Congress President Rajiv Satav tried laying to rest the ghosts of the Bihar assembly elections by saying the focus of the wing was on panchayat elections.

But, come 2011, five states -- West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Assam and Kerala -- will see assembly elections. While the Congress has a presence in Assam and Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal will once again test Gandhi's mettle.

 

 


Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh smiles as Rahul Gandhi watches during a meeting in New Delhi
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
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Cong set to become a subordinate partner in a TN coalition

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"We were unable to adequately prepare for Bihar, given insufficient time. Bihar will not be replicated next year; the party is a quick learner. While final decisions will be taken by the central leadership, we will field more Youth Congress members," said Satav.

Incidentally, in Bihar, of the Youth Congress strength of 348,256, the Congress chose to give tickets to just 18 'democratically-elected leaders'.

"The Tamil Nadu Youth Congress is a well-structured body, which is managed on professional ethics," said political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan about the 1,292,168-strong state wing of the Congress.

Even so, the state is home to one of the better-known rivalries of regional politics -- that of the Karunanidhi-led Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Jayalalitha-led All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

So, while the Congress, with its sights set on revival, might contest on all seats again, most political analysts are unanimous in assuming that it will once again play the role of a subordinate partner in a coalition.

 


Image: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi greets Tamil Nadu CM M Karunanidhi during a rally in Chennai
Photographs: Reuters
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'Lack of local face' may again become Cong's death knell in Bengal

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West Bengal, on the other hand, is dominated by the presence of Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress. She looks set to dethrone the 33-year-old Left Front government and the Congress seems to be along for the ride.

"They have no presence in Bengal. Banerjee won panchayats, Lok Sabha and municipalities. The Congress can at best hope for the role of a junior partner in the coalition," Rangarajan added.

Old problems of the absence of a strong local face will continue to haunt the Congress in the upcoming polls.

As Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad pointed out: "The Congress missed the text, context and script of Bihar -- theirs was a nebulous campaign based on an assumption of the magic of Rahul Gandhi. They did not have a local face or leadership."





 


Image: Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee watches her activists before she speaks during a protest rally in Singur, West Bengal
Photographs: Jayanta Shaw/Reuters
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