The All India Congress Committee (AICC) has appointed seven working presidents for its Gujarat unit. There is a social engineering strategy behind these appointments, as each leader represents one caste each, which dominates more than a dozen seats.
Political analysts and senior journalists read it as a clever strategy but are sceptical about the results, because it all depends on the party state unit and how effectively they use these seven cards in the race for assembly seats.
"It is very clear that by appointing MLA Lalit Kagathara, the party means to reach out to the upper caste Patidars, Rutvik Makwana represents the Koli community, Ambarish Der (Ahir), Jignesh Mevani (Dalit), Himmatsing Patel (Non Gujarati), Kadir Pirzada (Muslim) and Indravijaysinh Gohil (Kshatriya Rajput). On the top of the list is the name of Lalit Kagathara, meaning the party is giving weightage to Patidars," says political analyst Krushnakant Jha.
At the same time his analysis is that the Congress party is also attempting to send a message to upper caste voters that the party is trying to rise above its dedicated SC/ST/OBC vote bank and cares for them too.
Lalit Kagathara has influence over the Patidars from Saurashtra, Jignesh has a good hold on the Dalits of North Gujarat and both are competent to deliver results. Over and above this the party has tried to keep Kagathara, Mevani, Makwana, Patel and Der happy, so that they don't quit the party, noted Jha.
The selection of the working presidents is really good, but when it comes to delivery the party will have to give them a free hand. If they are not allowed to play and only asked to sit on the stands, this exercise will be futile, observed senior journalist Hemant Golani.
According to Golani, "Ambarish Der has a fighting spirit, his Ahir community dominates assembly seats in Amreli, Bhavnagar, Rajkot (rural) and Jamnagar district, Rutvik Makwana and his family are influencial in the Koli community. A well educated family from the Talpada sub-caste, enjoying high respect among the voters, he can turn the Koli voters into the party's favour in Surendranagar district as well as Jasdan and Vinchiya assembly seats in Rajkot district. Each of them is like a one man army, provided they are given the chance to play the game."
Among the Muslims, 'Pirs' enjoy great respect. Kadir Pirzada's family is respected by the Muslims because his ancestors were 'Pirs', he is a seasoned politician, but it is going to be a herculean task for him to prove his power in politics, because the state is highly polarised and Muslims are disenchanted with the Congress party, feels Nayeem Quadri, a senior journalist.
Lalit Kagathara has planned to campaign in assembly seats dominated by his community and he is confident of doing better than in the 2017 assembly elections.
Jignesh Mevani is going to concentrate on North Gujarat, especially in the Dalit dominated seats. He has plans to focus on 15 to 20 seats where Dalits are in good numbers. In each village he will appoint dedicated campaigners, one's task would be to reach out to 100 others. By this strategy he is planning to reach a minimum of 2.50 to 3 lakh Dalit voters and strengthen the party's vote bank.