NEW DELHI: Charged up over the Gujarat polls, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has asked the state unit to counter the BJP in the local body polls next month, but winning over urban voters remains a challenge for the opposition party.
Though the Congress did not win the Assembly polls, it gave the BJP a tough time, winning 77 of the 182 seats against 99 of the saffron party. As many as 75 municipal councils—mostly in the semi-urban areas, besides two zila panchayats and 14 taluka panchayats—will have polls on February 17, two days ahead of the Budget session. The Congress rules six municipal councils.
“We will work hard and it will show in the local poll results,” Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki told The New Indian Express.
Observers for each council have been deployed to obtain feedback from locals on who should the Congress nominee be. “The strategy will be to highlight local issues and gain acceptability among the voters,” Gujarat Congress leader Siddhartha Patel said.
The significance of the local polls can be gauged from the fact that Rahul deployed AICC incharge Ashok Gehlot to chair a brainstorming session with the state leaders on January 16 to formulate a strategy. “We are not aiming to just win a few more councils. The number has to change significantly,” said an AICC functionary.
Sources said issues like local corruption, sanitation and drinking water problems and unfulfilled promises by the BJP would be the main poll planks. Prepartion for the local polls will be a testing ground for the 2019 national elections, where the party hopes to win at least 13 of the 26 Lok Sabha seats. “Workers are excited after the Assemly polls. We can win many councils,” said Solanki.