With the upcoming Madhya Pradesh Assembly by-polls, the Congress is pretending to put up a fight on all the 28 seats which are up for grabs. Interestingly, for the Congress to make a comeback in the state, it would be required to win all the 28 seats, even as the BJP requires only 9 seats to further consolidate its own position. In a desperate bid to show itself as a relevant political entity, the Congress has released a mini-manifesto of sorts for the by-polls in Madhya Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi is missing from the cover page of the same.
It has been observed in one state after the other, that the state leaderships of the party are much more comfortable and confident without Rahul Gandhi hovering around them and campaigning on their behalf. Already, Rahul Gandhi’s tremendous potential to lose elections and alienate even devoted Congress voters is well known. In Madhya Pradesh now, the mini-manifesto which has been released has the picture of Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Kamal Nath on the cover only.
The mini manifesto lists out the ‘achievements’ of the Kamal Nath government which lasted for 15 months in the state, before Jyotiraditya Scindia and the BJP pulled the rug off Congress’ feet. Interestingly, in 2018, the Congress manifesto had Rahul Gandhi’s picture at the centre of the cover page. From featuring him at the centre, to now giving the youth leader a massive miss, the Madhya Pradesh Congress seems to have come a long way.
The BJP, meanwhile, has gone on to say that Rahul Gandhi not being featured in the Congress’ mini manifesto is a proof of Kamal Nath not recognising him as a leader. The Congress, on its part, in a bid to coverup its blunder perhaps, has promised a complete manifesto which would feature Rahul Gandhi prominently.
This is not the first time that state units of the Congress have wanted to distance themselves from Rahul Gandhi. In Bihar too, state leaders had subtly indicated that Rahul Gandhi needn’t come down to the state for campaigning, since the Congress was not in a position to win at all. According to media reports, Bihar state Congress leaders told Rahul Gandhi during an online party meeting that it was too late to prepare for the electoral battle in the absence of an organizational structure in the eastern state. Literal translation being— ‘We are respectfully arguing that you stay put in your cosy 10 Janpath bungalow and let us do some actual work, not the mere rhetoric.’
In Haryana too, during the Assembly elections last year, Bhupinder Singh Hooda had meted out similar treatment to the Gandhis, as he featured only himself and his son on the posters put up for a “workers conference”, giving both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi a miss. It is no secret for the Congress’ state units that wherever the Gandhis are kept out, the Congress’ performance receives a shot in the arm. In Madhya Pradesh too, Kamal Nath seems to be employing the same tactic.