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Congress general secretary, K.C. Venugopal may have succeeded in getting Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot in the same frame but clearly “picture abhi baaki hai”. This is not the end of the tussle between the two, but both sides have been asked to call a temporary halt in hostilities to allow the Bharat Jodo Yatra to pass through. A solution is not going to be easy, especially after Ashok Gehlot has publicly lashed out against Pilot, calling him a “gaddar” (traitor). That’s a pretty strong word to dial back, especially when one is not quite sure if Gehlot wants to dial it down. Can Sachin Pilot stay on under the chief ministership of someone who has publicly called him a “gaddar”? And while Gehlot has made it clear that he would be quite happy to vacate the CM’s chair for anyone but Pilot, this is not a solution that suits the latter. His supporters point out that when Pilot was sent as Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief, the Congress was not in power in the state, and Gehlot was a general secretary in Delhi, so Pilot deserves some credit for the win. Moreover, they add, he has been promised the seat by the Gandhi siblings, so why should he opt for a compromise that suits Gehlot? Clearly, this is one issue that will not be so easily resolved and one which will need all of Kharges political finesse to resolve before the Congress loses one more state.

The Ravan jibe
The very first time Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge addressed an election rally in Gujarat, he came up with the “Ravan” jibe against the Prime Minister. At a rally in Ahmedabad, Kharge commented that “We see your (Modi’s) face in corporation elections, MLA elections and MP elections, everywhere…do you have hundred heads like Ravan?” This is what the BJP was waiting for, as it’s not easy to fight a 27-year anti-incumbency on development alone. The party was looking for an emotional connect and what better glue to bind the voter in Gujarat than the PM’s name ? It took a while but the intrepid Amit Malviya of the BJP’s IT cell managed to highlight the issue as an insult to the PM and thereby to the Gujarati asmita. Later, the PM too picked up the theme during his rallies. While one is not quite sure if this will become an election issue, it has certainly ensured one thing—the presence of Mallikarjun Kharge in the election campaign. After all if the Congress fares badly it is Kharge who will have to take the flak, so he may as well take the ownership of the campaign. Interestingly, before the rise of the Modi-Shah BJP, Kharge had never lost an election. He was known as the “solillada sardara” (leader without defeat). But in 2019, he lost the Gulbarga Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka to the BJP’s Umesh Jadhav. In his Gujarat campaign, Kharge also raised another point—about him being a Dalit. This was targeted to the marginalized voter whom the BJP is also trying to woo with the PM’s OBC card. And it has also ensured that the Gujarat election ends on a BJP vs Congress note (it began on a BJP vs AAP campaign).

Is it more important for Arvind Kejriwal to win Delhi MCD or make an impact in the Gujarat polls? The former is his home turf and he needs to safeguard it. But the latter fits in with his national ambitions. If he wants to challenge Modi on a national level it is important for the AAP to make an impact.in Gujarat. Perhaps this is what the BJP was fearing when it diverted Kejriwal from Gujarat to Delhi by preponing the MCD polls. The initial phase of the Gujarat campaign was BJP vs AAP, the Delhi model vs the Gujarat model. in fact, as psephologist Yashwant Deshmukh of CVoter pointed out on NewsX Cover Story, the main question in Gujarat is not so much as to who is winning the election but who will be the principal opposition party. Will the Congress be able to retain its margin of 77 seats in the last 2017 polls? Will Kejriwal take over the opposition space? And will BJP cross triple digits?

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