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Gujarat, Himachal Assembly polls: Cong appoints Ashok Gehlot, Bhupesh Baghel as senior observers

Gehlot will be the senior observer for Gujarat, a state where he was in charge as general secretary during the last Assembly elections.

Ashok Gehlot, Bhupesh Baghel, indian expressRajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel. (File)

EXPECTING AN uphill electoral battle in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the Congress on Tuesday roped in its two chief ministers – Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh’s Bhupesh Baghel – appointing them as senior observers to oversee the election efforts and campaign management in the two states, where elections are due later this year.

In what appears to be a fine balancing act, the party also appointed young faces Sachin Pilot and Milind Deora and T S Singh Deo, the Chhattisgarh minister who is at loggerheads with Baghel, as observers. Although Pilot had campaigned aggressively in the last round of Assembly polls, it is for the first time that he has been given an organisational responsibility after his rebellion against Gehlot in 2020. Deora too had been out of action for long.

Gehlot will be the senior observer for Gujarat, a state where he was in charge as general secretary during the last Assembly elections. He will be assisted by Deo and Deora as observers. Raghu Sharma, who was a minister in the Gehlot Cabinet and is considered a close associate of the Chief Minister, is the AICC in-charge of Gujarat.

Baghel will be the senior observer for Himachal Pradesh. He will be assisted by Pilot and Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Partap Singh Bajwa. The move to rope in both the Chief Ministers is aimed at sending a signal that the party is serious about the two state elections. The party had lost all five states – Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur – where elections were held earlier this year.

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Gehlot will have a tough challenge in Gujarat, where its bid to dislodge the BJP from power is complicated by the aggressive entry of AAP, which is trying to make inroads and capture the Congress space. Just days ago, the Congress appointed seven new working presidents for Gujarat, including Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani and former Surat mayor Kadir Pirzada, giving representation to the influential communities.

In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress is hoping that the state will stick to the electoral trend of voting out the incumbent. But the party’s election efforts are hampered by the absence of a charismatic face Virbhadra Singh. It has appointed the former Chief Minister’s wife Pratbiha, a Lok Sabha MP, as the state Congress president hoping to capitalise on Singh’s legacy.

But the party is badly divided in the state which poses another challenge.

First published on: 12-07-2022 at 04:49:02 pm
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