NEW DELHI: In an attempt to ward off the BJP’s criticism that he went temple-hopping during the Gujarat campaign only to garner votes, Congress president Rahul Gandhi prayed at the Somnath temple before reviewing the party’s poll performance with state leaders on Saturday. Rahul had visited around 20 temples across the state during the campaign as part of a conscious approach to counter the ruling BJP. Rahul, who said he was a Shiv bhakt, had explained that he was praying for the well-being of Gujarat during these visits to the temples. The strategy paid off as the Congress tally in the state Assembly jumped from 57 in 2012 to 77 and its vote share rose by 2.5 per cent from 39 per cent in 2012 to 41.5 per cent.
Sources said there were some gaps to be filled in the way the party unit functioned and cited 16 seats where the Congress nominee lost by less than 3,000 votes.With the state polls over, sources said Rahul urged party workers to stay united and work hard to counter the BJP in the 2019 general elections. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress had lost all the 26 seats from Gujarat to the saffron party.
Rahul, who described the Gujarat poll loss as a moral victory for the Congress, is concerned over the fact that all the big state unit leaders like Arjun Modhwadia, Shaktisinh Gohil, Siddartha Patel and Tushar Chowdhary lost their seats. State unit head Bharatsinh Solanki did not contest the polls.Party insiders acknowledged organisational weakness stymied the Congress’ efforts to wrest power from the BJP as its booth-level mobilisation could not match up to that of the saffron party.
While rebels played spoilsport in some constituencies, banking on Hardik’s supporters to deliver the seats also cost the Congress dear on a few seats. The insiders said had the party started focusing on the state polls a year ago, the results would have been different. A case in point is the appointment of party veteran Ashok Gehlot as AICC in- charge of Gujarat affairs in April, just months ahead of the polls. Gehlot’s predecessor Gurudas Kamat left the charge as he was miffed with infighting in the state unit.
That would remain Rahul’s challenge, said sources.