NEW DELHI: Certain that polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh would boil down to Prime Minister Narendra Modi versus Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, the BJP is pinning hope on an encore of the 2014 verdict on December 18. BJP leaders claimed that the Congress, in the run up to the elevation of Rahul Gandhi as the president of the party, has sought to turn the elections into a Rahul Gandhi versus Modi battle in the state polls.
“We find it to the comfort of the party that the Congress has gone aggressive to pitchfork Rahul Gandhi to the forefront of election campaigning in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. There is an evident urgency on the part of the Congress leaders in running the campaign around Rahul Gandhi since there are talks of his imminent elevation to the post of the party president. All know the verdict in 2014 when the poll battle was directly between Modi and Rahul Gandhi,” said a key BJP strategist spearheading the campaign for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh polls.
The BJP leaders noted that the Congress had been equivocal in pushing Rahul Gandhi to the forefront of the election campaigns in states post-2014 debacle. “The Congress won the Punjab polls this year where Rahul Gandhi was missing from action. The BJP routed the Congress in states where Rahul Gandhi was on the forefront,” said a BJP national general secretary.
The BJP leaders admitted that the polls in the two states are being held on national issues. “The BJP is up against the Congress in direct contest in both the states. While Himachal Pradesh has somewhat seen local issues, including development and employment opportunities, the Opposition is banking mostly on national issues, including the decision of demonetisation, rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), agrarian distress and so on. The BJP is not going to be defensive on any such issue,” added the BJP general secretary.
Incidentally, BJP strategists have decided to unleash much of its resources to counter claims and assertions by Rahul Gandhi made during his speeches at various fora. “It suits us that the state polls are seen a Modi versus Rahul Gandhi battle. The party will strongly respond to any of the statements of Rahul Gandhi made in a public rally or on his social media platforms. The party wants the people in the two states to make electoral choices between the leadership of Modi or Rahul Gandhi,” said another senior BJP functionary.