Trouble mounts for Cong before Modi's campaign blitzkrieg

Trouble mounts for Cong before Modi's campaign blitzkrieg

A day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins his carpet-bombing campaign for Assembly elections in his home state, the Opposition Congress seems to be facing an upheaval from within over ticket distribution.

The Congress, which till recently appeared to be on the offensive with its campaign led by party vice president Rahul Gandhi, has suddenly gone on the defensive on nomination of candidates. The situation has reached such an impasse that after having announced the names of candidates for 89 constituencies going to the hustings in the first phase of polls, it has gone silent on the names for the remaining 93 constituencies. This, till late Sunday, a day prior to the last day of filing nominations!

What has led to this situation is the massive angst among the party's rank and file against many candidates. So much so that police pickets had to be made in front of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress office in Ahmedabad as well as other places across the state. Scores of angry party workers descended on various Congress offices to register their protest against "imported" candidates, with many threatening to quit the party.

The timing could not have been worse as the biggest mascot for the BJP in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is beginning his campaign blitzkrieg in the state with four rallies on Monday and another four on Wednesday.

Though murmurs over selection of candidates were also heard from the BJP quarters (it too did not announce its final list of 34 candidates till late Sunday) Congress' problems appeared to have assumed serious proportions.

Party workers are said to be unhappy as in most cases, the names of the candidates that had come out of a survey conducted by Rahul Gandhi through a consensus among partymen about six months ago, have now apparently been given a go-by in the wake of an understanding reached between the Congress and Alpesh Thakore of OBC Manch, Hardik Patel of PAAS, Chhotubhai Vasava of Sharad Yadav faction of JD(U) and NCP. This has led to heartburn among "original" Congressmen.

Protests were reported from Kutch, Radhanpur, Patan, Vadodara and several other places. While all APMC members quit Congress to join BJP in Kutch, over 2,000 workers in Radhanpur threatened to resign in protest against the move to nominate Alpesh Thakore. Similar threats were issued by workers in Vadodara, Waghodia Dariapur in Ahmedabad and Mehsana.

Considering the mounting trouble, the Congress leadership is learnt to have decided against officially announcing the names of its of candidates before the closure of nominations. Instead, it has resorted to telephone the selected candidates and ask them to file papers without much brouhaha. The party is learnt to have called as many as 54 candidates till Sunday night, informing them to file papers on Monday morning.

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