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Hopes were that the Congress party would put its best foot forward at its Working Committee meet and rally in Gujarat, which came close on the heels of declaration of the Lok Sabha polls. The Party obviously failed to do so if reports coming from Ahmedabad and adjoining Gandhinagar were any indication. There, the party harped on the same old themes against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his government and the BJP, with no element of surprise thrown in.

For one, the low-key debut by Priyanka Gandhi outside UP failed to inspire even the Congress ranks. She failed to establish a connect with the moderate-sized audience she addressed in Gandhinagar – something that had marked out the speeches of grandmother Indira Gandhi. She stressed that the campaign should focus only on joblessness, women safety and farm distress. Rafale didn’t figure in her anti-Modi agenda, though Rahul Gandhi who spoke later brought it up. The issues that Priyanka raised were relevant, no doubt, and touched directly upon the daily lives of the ordinary masses. Yet, these were subjects raised with tiring regularity and there was nothing new to this. The same issues had been raised against the Congress in the past. The Congress meet overall failed to open new fronts against Modi.

Notably, the idea of holding the campaign launch and the crucial CWC meet in Gujarat itself failed to make a big impact. Gujarat has drifted further from the Congress in recent times despite a good but not very successful show by the party in the last assembly polls. The powerful Patel community is brought back by the BJP to its side through the unveiling of the Patel statue. Patidar Andolan activist Hardik Patel joining the Congress now is immaterial. He’s progressively losing his clout. Politics is no child’s play; it’s a hard-edged battle of wits.

This is true for Rahul Gandhi too. The launch of the party campaign for LS stakes could have been done elsewhere. It should have been an event in itself. Instead, Gandhinagar turned out to be a tame affair. Reports are also that many of those who attended the meet left after Priyanka spoke and before Rahul Gandhi stood up to speak. The Congress virtually failed to rise to expectations at a time when Prime Minister Modi recovered dramatically from a steady downslide in his popularity and caught on the Balakot IAF action to his political advantage.

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