When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Widely touted to be facing what may be its worst electoral debacle, the Congress has apparently realized that this isn’t the time for political niceties.
Instead of armchair ideologues and traditional backroom strategists, it is installing young guns, whose skill-set includes the word ‘tough’.
West Bengal is a striking example. Rather than retaining the mild-mannered Pradip Bhattacharjee, it has fielded Adhir Chowdhury as the new Pradesh Congress Committee chief. Adhir is the archetypal ‘strongman’ with a handful of cases perpetually running against him.
So if the fight is against two parties (the TMC and CPM) who are mirror images in terms of their potential for political violence, the Congress obviously sees no point in putting up a softie bhandralok type. Besides saving its last bastion, Malda and Murshidabad, which are Adhir’s base-camps, from sustained Trinamool attack, was found to be more important than image building.
In Odisha, Srikant Jena, a no-holds-barred student leader, is perhaps the best lieutenant to field on that eastern flank of its Lok Sabha potential-all eyes being on the more high-salience states. Jena as the campaign committee chief in a state where the party is clearly in disarray, has its own significance.
In the Patnaik-dominated Odisha politics, the Congress has played the OBC card with Jena’s long-due rehabilitation (like P Chidambaram, he had quit the party once and was even part of the Deve Gowda Government).
Like Jena in Odisha, another middle level seasoned leader Kumari Selja has been accommodated in the Haryana campaign committee and the Rajya Sabha from the state, much to Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s dismay, indicating that the party high command has decided to break Hooda’s stranglehold over the state and give space to Dalit leaders, who are not-too-friendly with him.
Similar to the West Bengal experiment and an enterprising toughie is now in charge of Haryana: Ashok Tanwar, who has replaced Hooda loyalist Dalit leader Phulchand Mulana.
On the basis of how Delhi voted and the aftermath of the Muzaffarnagar riot, the traditional Jat votes in Haryana are expected to swing away from the Congress and Chautala towards the new wave-creator: NaMo and the Haryana Janhit Congress of Kuldip Bishnoi.
Then there is also the AAP -- this being the home state of Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav, they would certainly go out and make a big splash.
Haryana is also where the Robert Vadra-Ashok Khemka kerfuffle unfolded, and where the old Gurgaon heavyweight Rao Indrajit Singh jumped the ship to the BJP.
In Kerala, the Congress has opted for a clean image and community card. Ignoring the pressure of the Chandy-Chennithala cliques, it has installed Sudheeran as the PCC chief, who belongs to the numerically strong backward Ezhava community. Seen to be non-aligned, Sudheeran is acceptable to all sections of the state.