New Delhi: After Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi dared Rahul Gandhi to campaign in Gujarat, the Congress came quick to the defence of the party General Secretary, who will hold his first campaign rally in the state from Tuesday. The Congress refused to rise to the bait from Modi, who has made Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul the focus of his campaigns.
Many see this as positioning by Modi of himself as a potential PM candidate in 2014 and also pinning the responsibility of a likely Congress failure in Gujarat polls. After Uttar Praddesh, when results poured in, Congress got less than expected. Rahul was blamed for the poor performance and some dismissed his ability to be a 'vote catcher' of the party as well in future.
And now, unlike as in Uttar Pradesh, where Rahul almost campaigned daily criss-crossing across the state for over a month, he has laregly stayed away. Preferring to play a back-room role in finalising the list of candidates and when in Gujarat, Rahul is expected to focus on development issues - hardselling UPA's programmes and policies rather than speaking of Modi.
The Congress is aware that halting the Modi juggernaut is almost impossible and to make it a Modi versus Rahul fight here could put a question mark on Rahul's ability to sell the party. Especially as the Gandhi scion is expected to lead the campaign in Lok Sabha.