Rather than going out for an all-out battle, the Congress is more intent on shielding general secretary Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat despite Chief Minister Narendra Modi's regular taunts on the party's second-in-command.
"The prince is coming but he is reluctant to come as well because if he comes to Gujarat, his condition would be worse than Uttar Pradesh," Modi said in an election rally apparently referring to Rahul Gandhi.
Many see this approach from the Gujarat chief minister as his self-positioning as a prime ministerial candidate in 2014. In all likelihood, Rahul will be similarly positioned by the Congress and there is a high probability of a Rahul-Modi face-off in 2014. By trying to provoke the Congress to react, Modi is possibly trying to put the onus of a likely Congress failure in Gujarat on Rahul.
Even though Modi continues to fire salvos at Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, the party is careful not to bite the bait. Like Sonia Gandhi, Rahul, who is starting his Gujarat campaign from Tuesday, will avoid taking Modi's name during rallies and focus primarily on UPA's development programmes.
The Congress leaders are also trying to protect the Congress general secretary from Modi's regular attacks.
"The very fact that Narendra Modi is talking about Rahul Gandhi means that he is afraid of Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat," Law Minister Ashwani Kumar told CNN-IBN's Pallavi Ghosh.
After the Uttar Pradesh debacle, some people have started doubting Rahul's capability as a vote catcher and a future leader.
Unlike in Uttar Pradesh, where the Gandhi scion campaigned almost daily crisscrossing the state, the Congress realised that taking on Modi at his home ground is a risky proposition.
A head-on clash against Modi in Gujarat might seriously dent Congress' prospect in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and might prove detrimental for Rahul's political future.
The state goes to the polls on 13 and 17 December. The counting is on 20 December.
First Published On : Dec 10, 2012 19:33 IST