IN HIS first rally for the Bihar Assembly elections on Friday, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi focused on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government’s policies. However, there is a concerted effort by the Congress this time to ensure the election in Bihar remains about local issues.
A large team of leaders from the high command is stationed in Patna micromanaging the campaign and coordinating with allies RJD and the Left parties from behind the scenes — but that’s almost the extent of the Delhi connect.
Congress sources said the local leaders are not even keen on too many names from outside barring Rahul Gandhi and the party’s chief ministers coming for campaigning, to ensure that the focus is not diverted from local issues. There is a clear instruction to leaders specifically to not raise divisive issues or react to controversial or emotive topics thrown up by the BJP. Follow Bihar Election 2020 Live Updates
The Congress appears to have learnt a lesson from Jharkhand where the JMM and Congress ran a strictly localised campaign which bore results.
The party’s campaign committee, for the 70 seats it is contesting, is headed by AICC communication department in-charge Randeep Surjewala, and includes its social media head Rohan Gupta, national spokesperson Pawan Khera and leaders such as former AICC general secretary Mohan Prakash, former Union minister Subodh Kant Sahay who belongs to the region and Captain Ajay Yadav from Haryana, whose son is married to one of RJD leader Lalu Prasad’s daughters.
Besides, three-six observers have been appointed per constituency, with a war room in Patna taking updates round the clock and processing the requirements of the candidates.
A coordination committee of the allies is in place which meets every day at 8 pm. From the Congress, the meeting is attended by Mohan Prakash, Sahay or Ajay Yadav. From the RJD, either Manoj Kumar Jha or Shivanand Tiwari is present.
The overbearing presence of names from outside has led to some disgruntlement among party leaders in Bihar that they are being “sidelined”. However, on other matters, the Congress is keeping local sentiments in mind. “We are not asking outside leaders to hold rallies. So far Raj Babbar has addressed some rallies. He will address some more. Shatrughan Sinha is a local favourite. He will address rallies too,” a high command leader told The Indian Express.
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel is arriving on Saturday and will be addressing three meetings.
“We are largely running a local campaign. So far we have managed not to get dragged into Jinnah or Pakistan kind of controversies. We are ignoring controversial statements made by BJP leaders and issues thrown at us. Our candidates are more particular that the campaign should be local…We are not planning any public meetings by outside leaders. They will come and address press conferences in Patna and leave,” another senior leader said.
In a reference to the “neech” remark by Mani Shankar Aiyar regarding Modi in the middle of the Gujarat elections, which had overtaken the discourse, a senior Congress leader said, “Some of our leaders are capable of springing such surprises on us. We hope and pray that they don’t.”
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