NEW DELHI :
The campaign for assembly elections has seen a lacklustre performance by Congress party’s top leadership, primarily party president Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul Gandhi.
These assembly elections are the direct electoral contest between Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress after the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
While Modi has held over 25 election rallies in both Haryana and Maharashtra where the ruling BJP is trying to make history by returning to power, Sonia Gandhi has not held public meetings. Rahul Gandhi has held a total of seven public meetings across both states.
Interestingly, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who had campaigned extensively in Lok Sabha polls, was also missing from assembly polls’ campaign. Voting for both Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections is due on 21 October while counting of the votes will take place on 24 October. The deadline for the close of campaigns is Saturday evening.
“There was a division in party over the public meetings of Sonia Gandhi. Some of the leaders from both Haryana and Maharashtra suggested that state leaders should be given prominence in the election campaign rather than leaders coming from Delhi. Since Rahul Gandhi visited both the states, there us no question of Gandhi family not being involved," said a senior leader of the party requesting anonymity.
In comparison, BJP's top leadership, particularly, Modi has held a high decibel poll campaign for the state elections. On the last day of campaigning too, while neither of the Gandhis are scheduled to hold poll rallies, Modi is addressing two public meetings in Haryana.
Sonia Gandhi, 73, was to address a rally at Mahendergarh in Haryana but it was cancelled hours ahead of the scheduled time on Friday due to “unavoidable reasons". She has reduced her public engagements particularly, those which are election related, in the recent past and is yet to address any election related meeting ever since she returned as the party president in August.
This year, she has so far addressed only two such meetings -- one while campaigning from her parliamentary constituency Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh and one more there to thank her voters for electing her. She has not only stayed away from active campaigning in Lok Sabha polls but also did not address any election rally in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in December.
Senior Congress leaders also feel that internal troubles and public dissent by a section of leaders in the both poll bound states have resulted in a decreased campaign activity by the top leadership.
Former Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar quit the party accusing the leadership of not doing enough to promote ground workers and instead extended support to Dushyant Chautala led Jannayak Janata Party (JJP).
In Maharashtra, senior party leader Sanjay Nirupam voiced dissatisfaction against ticket distribution and has kept himself away from the election campaign.