With election dates out, parties shift to top gear

With election dates out, parties shift to top gear

Congress President Rahul Gandhi addresses booth- level workers during 'Mera Booth, Mera Gaurav' convention at Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi on March 11, 2019.

Political activity gained momentum on Monday with parties getting down to the core job of finalising their list of candidates and fine-tuning strategies to come up trumps in the Lok Sabha elections that were announced on Sunday.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to his supporters on social media besides attending to his official functions, Congress President Rahul Gandhi fired up booth presidents of the Delhi unit of the party with a rousing speech urging them to walk the extra mile to win all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi.

“In 2019, Congress is going to form the government at the Centre,” Rahul told a convention of booth presidents here and identified the BJP as the prime opponent while making no mention of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, that is keen on an alliance with the Congress in Delhi.

NCP supremo Sharad Pawar considered one of the contenders for the prime minister’s post, sprung a surprise by turning down the request of party workers to contest the Lok Sabha elections.

However, Pawar also paved the way for his grand-nephew Parth Pawar in the electoral battle from Maval Lok Sabha seat.

Top Congress leaders held a series of meetings to finalise the candidates for the Lok Sabha elections. The focus of the meetings since Sunday was on candidates from Rajasthan, Punjab, Karnataka, Goa and northeastern states.

A section of the Congress leaders, including Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, urged former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Amritsar. However, the 86-year-old economist-turned-politician was not too keen to boot up for the battle.

Congress Working Committee (CWC), the top decision-making body of Congress, was set to meet in Ahmedabad on Tuesday to give final touches to its Lok Sabha strategy and also discuss the party’s manifesto.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, senior leaders Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were expected to address a rally after the CWC.

Hardik Patel, a prominent leader of the influential Patidaar community who shot to fame in the agitation for job quotas three years ago, will be joining the Congress.

In the BJP ranks, Home Minister Rajnath Singh met women leaders of the party including Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, senior BJP leaders Saroj Pandey and Vijaya Rahatkar to discuss suggestions from the party’s women’s wing for the manifesto.

In Kolkata, Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was set to announce the list of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls on Tuesday.

In Delhi, AAP workers staged protests in front of the Congress headquarters for not pressing for the full statehood
demand for the national capital, which Kejriwal has made an election plank.

In Bihar and Jharkhand, the rival alliances — BJP-led NDA and Congress-led UPA — were busy finalising the seat-sharing arrangements with coalition partners.