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Rahul Gandhi begins Saurashtra campaign in Narendra Modi's backyard hoping to bank on Patidar sentiment

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi prepares to kick-off a three-day campaign in Gujarat's Saurashtra region on Monday to propel the party's campaign for the Gujarat Assembly elections scheduled for later this year.

Local authorities, however, have declined him permission to hold the road show in an open jeep.

The road show, which will now feature a traditional bullock cart, will begin at the Dwarkadheesh Krishna temple, from where Rahul is expected to drive down to Jamnagar, interacting with locals at various educational institutions, women and businessmen. Gandhi will also briefly halt at a dozen places through the journey that covers two districts — Devbhumi Dwarka and Jamnagar — to interact with party workers.

 Rahul Gandhi begins Saurashtra campaign in Narendra Modis backyard hoping to bank on Patidar sentiment

File image of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

This tour of the Saurashtra region — which sends one-third of the legislators in the 182-member state Assembly —  comes weeks after his trip to Gujarat where interacted with thousands of party workers at Ahmedabad Sabarmati riverfront. The region has not been electorally rewarding to the party, as the 2012 Assembly elections yielded only 12 of the 52 seats.

Several villages, like Hanjrapar near Dwarka, which fall in the path of Rahul's road show have undertaken preparations to welcome the Congress leader. "Not only his welcome, but we have also made arrangements for everyone in typical Saurashtra style," Congress leader Palbhai Ambaliya told IANS.

After a night's halt at Jamnagar, Rahul will drive down to Rajkot on Tuesday, which happens to be the hometown of Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, and a significant political centre of the Saurashtra region. Here, Gandhi is scheduled to offer prayers at the Khodaldham Temple, the deity of Patidar community.

On Wednesday, the Congress leader will reach Surendranagar, where he is expected to climb the long-winding stone stairs to the popular hill-top Chotila Temple.

Rahul will wrap up his tour at Viramgam at the entry to Ahmedabad district. Viramgam is the home town of the young Patidar agitation spearhead Hardik Patel.

This year, the Congress will try and take advantage of the Patidar sentiment against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the farmer distress in the state to increase its tally in the polls.

After three successive and significant defeats in Gujarat in 2003, 2007 and 2012, the Congress is aiming to reverse course — a task made a tad easier in light of the fact that Narendra Modi no longer stands as a chief ministerial candidate for the BJP.

Congress' chances in the state first seem to have strengthened after Ahmed Patel's election to a Rajya Sabha seat in August, a high-stakes contest seen by many as a battle for prestige between the BJP and Congress.

Since then, the party has conducted multiple events to advance its Gujarat campaign.

After covering Saurashtra, Gandhi will campaign in north, central and south Gujarat at later dates as part of the party's poll campaign ahead of the Assembly elections slated to be held later in 2017, party sources said.

With inputs from IANS

Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.

Updated Date: Sep 25, 2017 11:41:09 IST

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