'Early bird gets the worm' appears to be the Congress' new mantra for elections under its new president Rahul Gandhi.
Having seen the benefits of making the first move in Gujarat, Rahul is keen to repeat the strategy in poll-bound states, particularly Karnataka, where he is expected to hit the campaign trail in February with meetings in Mysuru, Belagavi and Ballari districts.
"We already have a head start in Karnataka and have focused our attention on Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where elections are scheduled for later," a senior Congress leader said.
For Karnataka, the election committees were set up in May 2017 with the Congress settling the leadership issue in favour of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. This was seen as a clear message to rival factions to fall in line. The Congress has also announced the election committees to Chhattisgarh, which goes to polls by the end of the year, and Jharkhand, where elections are scheduled for next year. Rahul is expected to settle the leadership issue in Madhya Pradesh, where Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath are eyeing the post of the state president.
In Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot has been steering the party for the last three years but chief ministerial aspirants Ashok Gehlot and C P Joshi have been snapping at his heels.
"The allocation of specific roles to various leaders helps in fixing responsibilities. We expect the leaders to deliver on the tasks assigned to them instead of fighting among themselves," another Congress leader said.
The Congress has also adopted a carrot-and-stick approach to deal with dissidents at state and district levels to put them in line. "There were some leaders who issued threats of ensuring the defeat of the official candidate. We told them, please defeat the official candidate and we will ensure that you get nowhere near the Congress ecosystem for the rest of your life," a leader said, sharing his experience in Gujarat.
The quick suspension of the Congress veteran Manishankar Aiyar for his "neech" remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the middle of the heated campaign for Gujarat also helped send a message to errant leaders - fall in line or be left by the wayside.