Free hand for Rahul in UP
Setting his eyes clearly on Uttar Pradesh, Rahul Gandhi has begun the groundwork to wrest power. Renu Mittal digs up the strategies being worked out.
The Assembly polls may be three years away in Uttar Pradesh, but Rahul Gandhi has begun the groundwork to capture power in the politically crucial state.
Emboldened by the Lok Sabha and the recent bypoll success, the Congress general secretary, it is learnt, is handpicking observers who will each be in charge of 40 constituencies -- to begin with -- for the 2012 polls.
The observers would have to submit reports -- which include the profile, best-possible candidates and the winning chances -- to Rahul top leader Digvijay Singh.
Those reports and inputs, it is learnt, will be the yardstick to choose candidates in what is being already described as an acid test for the Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and the Congress.
Image: Rahul Gandhi
Rahul: Pushing Ahead
Rahul believes picking right candidates early is important in any elections. Sources say that Rahul's UP team, headed by Digvijay Singh, has already done an excellent job in the stunning capture of the Ferozabad seat in the recent bypoll.
With the SP and BJP biting the dust recently, they believe it is a straight fight between the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The party read Rahul is determined to go it alone and rule the state.
Defeating the SP in Ferozabad a hardcore Yadav land -- and defeating the BJP in Lucknow -- a traditional stronghold -- has been a huge shot in the arm for Congress.
Interestingly, BJP leader Lalji Tandon's son wanted a Congress ticket to contest the Lucknow constituency, which was vacated by his father, but the Congress leadership refused to entertain him, giving ticket to one of its low-profile workers. With the party assessing that 90 per cent of the Muslims in Ferozabad voted for the Congress, the party is upbeat about the fact that Muslims have finally moved away from the SP.
Raj Babbar, who volunteered to contest the Ferozabad, had only one condition: Rahul Gandhi should campaign for him just once, which Rahul readily agreed to. During the Lok Sabha election, Raj Babbar had scheduled two meetings of Rahul, but they did not take place.
Image: Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi
Is Maya listening?
Besides, the Congress is wooing farmers. Digvijay Singh recently led a delegation of leaders, including the UPCC president Rita Bahuguna, to meet Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, seeking remunerative sugar cane prices.
The fact that Mayawati has won nine out of the 11 seats does not worry the Congress leadership. They attribute the success to "strong arm tactics of the Mayawati administration".
Thus, Rahul has unleashed Operation 2012 Uttar Pradesh. Is Mayawati watching?
Image: Rahul Gandhi