NEW DELHI: Congress strategists are focusing on 17 swing seats the party lost in the 2012 Gujarat Assembly polls by less than 5,000 votes. As several of these constituencies are Patel dominated, the party is hopeful that the alliance with Hardik Patel will boost its prospects in these areas.
According to sources, party managers are reworking the strategy in these seats following an assessment that a combination of Patel, OBC and Dalit votes could shore up its tally significantly and take the Congress closer to the half-way mark in the 182-member Assembly. The sources acknowledged that Hardik’s public support to the Congress had given the party managers a new confidence to take on the ruling BJP. The Patels, divided into Leuva and Kadva sub-groups, are mostly concentrated in the Saurashtra region.
“Senior leaders are being deployed in these areas to charge up our workers. We are also planning to campaign in coordination with our supporters to maximise the outreach. Outcome in these seats can impact the poll results,” said a Congress insider.
Sources said these seats mostly fall in the semi-urban or rural areas and comprise of segments that are miffed with the BJP, unlike the urban areas where the middle class tends to tilt towards the saffron party.
The Congress had won 57 seats in the 2012 polls, but recently lost 13 lawmakers who quit the party along with Shankar Sinh Vaghela. Most of the MLAs who remained with the party have been fielded again.
AICC managers said they are trying hard to wrest power from the BJP and know that every single seat counts in the tightly contested elections. “Gujarat is a close fight. Given huge social unrest among various social groups, I think there is a fair chance for us to turn around the polls,” an AICC general secretary, who recently spent a couple of days in Gujarat to assess public mood, said.
Sources said though some tickets given to Hardik’s supporters have been replaced with Congress nominees, the issue has been settled and the Patel community leaders would be accommodated in the list for the second phase of polling.
Closely contested constituencies
Party strategists are pinning hopes on the alliance with Hardik Patel and others this time to wrest the seats where it lost by slim margins in the 2012 Assembly elections