Fresh from its electoral wins in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Congress is now seeking to maximise its gains in the region in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
These three states, along with Maharashtra, send 114 members to the Lok Sabha and Congress has set itself a target of winning at least 50 seats here.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress was wiped out from Rajasthan, it managed to win one seat in Chhattisgarh and two seats each in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
The increase in Congress' tally was after the win in bypolls necessitated after the death of BJP members Dilip Singh Bhuria (Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh) in 2015 and Mahant Chand Nath (Alwar) and Sanwarlal Jat (Ajmer) in 2018.
In December last, Congress won the Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and the target is to build upon the gains and make an even sharper dent in the region considered as the BJP's stronghold.
Accordingly, Chhatisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has been tasked with bettering the party's performance in the state where BJP has decided not to field any of its sitting members in the upcoming elections.
In Maharashtra, Congress has announced an alliance with NCP and also roped in former BJP ally Swabhimani Paksha of Raju Shetti. Congress has fielded its stalwarts to take on the BJP. Former Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is in the fray from Solapur, while Milind Deora and Priya Dutt has been fielded from Mumbai. Former BJP MP and now the Chairman of the AICC's Farmer's Department Nana Patole has been fielded against Union Minister Nitin Gadkari from Nagpur.
BJP sought to benefit from the traditional Congress-NCP rivalry in Ahmednagar by winning over Sujay Vikhe Patil, the son of Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and announcing his candidature from Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat.
In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Chief Ministers Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath respectively and generation next leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot have been tasked to ensure the victory of maximum Congress candidates.
The tight-rope walk the Congress has to do with coalition partners in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar has forced the grand old party to strengthen itself by putting up a strong performance in states where it is in direct contest with the BJP.