The zing seen in the Congress campaign in Gujarat is result of the spectre Congress faced during Ahmed Patel’s Rajya Sabha’s elections. The message was clear and simple that there is no option but to fight back. Ahmad Patel won but the bloody joust with the BJP kicked Congress into action.For the upcoming assembly elections, a ‘Task Force’ was constituted to identify potential. Two Congress members from states other than Gujarat were stationed in every assembly segment to give feedback on probable candidates. They reported to Rahul Gandhi’s office and most of them kept a low profile.Their recommendation was accepted and implemented. A separate team was made to identify disgruntled candidates and were asked to work upon them so that they don’t end up disrupting the campaign. Ashok Gehlot, Congress in-charge of Gujarat, deployed a separate team of Congress workers from Rajasthan in each assembly segment for a parallel feedback system. Sources said that the Congress also did micro-planning for 113 seats, something completely unheard in the past.Also readGujarat elections 2017: Rotate leaders the way you rotate crops, says Hardik PatelAs the dates of the elections closed in, the Congress worked on its weakest link. It identified booth level workers and booth level committees. The Congress ensured that a WhatsApp group was created for every booth in the state. Sources said that every candidate was also asked to maintain 200 to 300 WhatsApp group to ensure constant communication with the stakeholders.The Congress also decided to avoid sending big Muslim faces to minority-dominated districts and decided to organise press conferences regularly in cities like Surat, Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Vadodara. It was decided to deploy all senior leaders including Manmohan Singh for campaign but in a low-profile manner. It is for this reason that most of the leaders are taking regular flights in and out of the state. The chopper-based campaign for rest of the party was done away with.Also readGujarat elections 2017: Row over Rahul Gandhi’s name in non-Hindus’ listSources in the Congress said that the real problem for the party was that it was never considered an alternative against the BJP for past 20 years. “We had to simultaneously work on social media, election strategy and organisation to tap into silent anger against GST and demonetisation,” said a source.The trick was to challenge Narendra Modi without attacking him personally. “For this reason, we decided to use satire in social media. We felt that we will get more support as people will feel less intimidated in criticizing him,” a source said. For this reason, special teams were created for ‘Nukkad Dramas’ for quirky takes on the GST and demonetization. It is for this reason, ‘vikas’ gone crazy (Vikas Gando Thayo Che) campaign was launched which was well received in public. This decision was also visible in most of the speeches of Rahul Gandhi where he deployed satire rather than personal and up close attack on the Prime Minister.Also readGujarat elections 2017 | PM Modi a terrific actor: Rahul Gandhi in Patidar beltSocial media teams for quick reaction were created in Ahmedabad. All campaigns of Rahul Gandhi were pursued on social media first and then TV. Sources said that all speeches of Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat went live on social media. Most of the workers were told not to respond to highly emotive issues lest elections get polarised. “We told them that if BJP talks about Gai then you talk about Aai. If they talk about Devalaya then you talk about Vidyalaya,” a source working on the campaign said.Today, Congress stands at the crossroads. For the party, it is not about elections but about morale and survival as a credible alternative to BJP. If it fails to give a tough fight to BJP, it will continue to slide further in people’s imagination as an alternative. If it gives a good fight or even win, it will retain the right to remain in the ring.
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Yogi Adityanath

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Beyond ‘Vikas Gando Thayo Che’: How Congress came up with its successful Gujarat strategy