From no contest to likely winners, how Congress turned around its Assam campaign

Meeting polls in Assam are over and all eyes are on counting day on Might 2 when fates of candidates and political events can be identified. However many appear to agree on one factor, this has been a great contest between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Social gathering (BJP) and the Opposition Congress.

Each events and their alliance companions are claiming a win as of now. However when the marketing campaign to type the following authorities in Dispur began in earnest three months in the past, it was not the case. The competition appeared closely in favour of BJP and Congress was nearly in disarray.

However because of cautious planning and execution of an environment friendly marketing campaign, the situation modified inside weeks. Quite a lot of elements had been chargeable for the change in fortunes.

In early January this yr, Congress named Chattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel because the social gathering’s observer for the Assam ballot marketing campaign. Baghel had sprung a shock on the ruling BJP authorities of Raman Singh in his state in 2018 and introduced Congress to energy with a powerful win.

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Quickly after his appointment, Baghel reached Assam together with a group of his trusted lieutenants and started working. He additionally introduced practically 20 groups of social gathering leaders from Chattisgarh who quickly unfold out to all 126 constituencies and began participating with grassroot employees.

Like in Chattisgarh, Baghel’s group began conducting ‘sankalp shivirs’ (decision camps) with the social gathering’s booth-level employees in nearly all constituencies of the state. This train was geared toward each reinvigorating cadres demoralised by a sequence of electoral setbacks since 2014, in addition to educating them on methods to attain out to voters, get to know their issues and likewise inform them concerning the Congress’s plans.

“These camps helped us in understanding the social gathering employees and coaching them on sales space administration and different points that play an vital function within the run-up to the day of polling. The employees additionally received to know us and felt comfortable that there was a plan in place this time,” mentioned a Congress chief from Chattisgarh who labored with cadres in Higher Assam.

The preliminary suggestions wasn’t encouraging. Congress in Assam was combating in-fighting amongst senior leaders akin to state president Ripun Bora, legislature social gathering chief Debabrata Saikia, Lok Sabha MPs Pradyut Bordoloi and Gaurav Gogoi and All India Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev.

“It was determined that each one of us would bury our variations and work collectively if we wished to pose a menace to BJP’s organisational behemoth. The leaders quickly began showing collectively in all occasions and all got enough house in marketing campaign materials and media releases,” mentioned a senior Congress office-bearer in Assam.

In each 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress had managed to win simply three seats every of the entire 14 seats and in 2016 meeting polls, the social gathering bagged solely 26 of the 126 seats. Then again, BJP received 60 seats and fashioned the federal government with companions Asom Gana Parishad (14) and Bodoland Peoples’ Social gathering (12).

Additionally Learn | Miffed with dealing with of EVMs, Assam Congress needs CCTV hyperlinks to sturdy rooms

In an effort to resurrect the social gathering, Congress appointed AICC common secretary Jitendra Singh, a former Union minister from Alwar, Rajasthan, because the in-charge of Assam. With an enormous activity at hand, Singh quickly introduced in Designboxed, a Mohali-based political marketing campaign administration firm, which had efficiently run Congress’s campaigns in meeting polls in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Punjab.

“After we got here in January, we didn’t have a lot time on our fingers, and everybody was saying that the Congress didn’t stand an opportunity. In all places we went, folks mentioned that it was a spent drive and should win round 10-15 seats this time. Two new regional events, Assam Jatiya Parishad and Raijor Dal, had been seen as extra formidable than Congress,” mentioned Designboxed co-founder Naresh Arora.

The ruling BJP had launched a number of welfare schemes focusing on all sections, improved roads and dealt with the Covid-19 state of affairs properly and Arora knew that they had an uphill activity. It was determined to start out the Congress marketing campaign with ‘yatras’. All senior leaders undertook 4 separate yatras every all around the state in January and lined 14,000 kms in all. This introduced the leaders to the voters’ doorstep they usually received to know the issues and strategies first hand.

Additionally Learn | Alliances, independents set to make third part in Assam essentially the most intently contested

“The primary defining second got here in mid-February when Rahul Gandhi introduced at a rally in Sivasagar that if voted to energy, the social gathering received’t enable implementation of Citizenship Modification Act (CAA) in Assam,” mentioned Arora. There was an undercurrent of opposition to the laws over fears that it will result in an inflow of unlawful immigrants from Bangladesh and Congress selected cashing in on that. In Bengali-dominated Barak Valley which has 15 seats, CAA has sympathisers, however the social gathering went forward with its determination.

Arora and his group of 350 unfold throughout Assam and one other 150 in its Mohali workplace had been concerned in most methods formulated and executed with recommendation from Jitendra Singh and senior Congress leaders in Assam. The corporate rented a complete flooring in a five-star property in Guwahati for practically three months whereas it engaged with social gathering employees, voters and journalists in the course of the marketing campaign.

The Congress stitched up an alliance with All India United Democratic Entrance (AIUDF), which had received 13 seats in 2016, three Left events, and a brand new entrance. It received one other increase when Bodoland Peoples’ Entrance (BPF), a associate within the BJP-led authorities, switched sides and joined the Congress camp. The BPF had received 12 seats in 2016, all within the Bodo tribe dominated areas of decrease Assam.

With suggestions from the yatras, Congress selected saying 5 ensures to voters in Assam. They had been: Non-implementation of CAA, 2,000 each month to homemakers, 200 items to free electrical energy to all households, creation of 500,000 authorities jobs, and a rise in each day wages of tea-garden employees to 365. The ensures had been introduced by Congress common secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra at a rally in early March.

“This was most likely the primary time a celebration was giving ensures and never guarantees to voters. We noticed that there was belief deficit between events and voters and that’s why, we used the phrase assure. It additionally helped that each one Assamese knew what the phrase meant,” mentioned Arora.

“The ensures had a powerful have an effect on as voters had one thing concrete to sit up for. This was in distinction to the BJP marketing campaign which didn’t have something important for particular person voters and was extra targeted on negatives like focusing on AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal as communal and spreading worry that Assam’s tradition would get misplaced if Congress and AIUDF got here to energy,” he added.

Detailed planning in seal allocation to allies, cautious choice of candidates and a dozen rallies of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra helped Congress enhance its reference to voters additional.

“Everybody now says it’s a shut contest. When contesting towards BJP, it is very important commit the least quantity of errors and we didn’t make a single one. The Congress would possibly nonetheless lose the election, however we gave the BJP a run for its cash at one-tenth of their price,” mentioned Arora.

BJP insiders admit that the struggle from Congress was surprising and it did make them uncomfortable. From its projected goal of 100 plus seats, the social gathering has toned down and says it received’t attain that mark.

“We underestimated the Congress and made some errors which may price us some seats. BJP will nonetheless win this election, however it is going to be a detailed one. I anticipate we’ll win between 65 and 72 seats,” mentioned a senior BJP workplace bearer refusing to be named. Social gathering state president Ranjeet Kumar Dass and senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma preserve that BJP and allies will attain a determine of 90 seats.

“One must give credit score to Congress for placing up a powerful struggle. They may nonetheless not have the ability to beat BJP, however the way in which the social gathering campaigned and was in a position to get help of undecided voters, it’s outstanding. The competition which appeared completely one-sided initially grew to become way more fascinating and keenly contested in direction of the later half,” mentioned Akhil Ranjan Dutta, professor of political science, Gauhati College.

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