MISSING IN ACTION
India Today|April 19, 2021
Rivals in Kerala, allies in Bengal—is the Congress’s dual relationship with the Left keeping the Gandhis from joining the campaign against Mamata?
Kaushik Deka

The absence of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, the two star campaigners of the Congress, from the West Bengal assembly election scene has raised questions about the party’s strategy in the state. Elections to the 294 assembly seats in Bengal are being held in eight phases. By April 10, polling would be over for 135 seats in the first four phases. Yet, no member of the Gandhi family has addressed a single rally in the state so far.

This is in sharp contrast to the party’s campaigns in the other three states going to polls—Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu besides the Union territory of Puducherry. While Rahul spent most of his time in the past two months in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Priyanka addressed rallies in Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala before she had to isolate herself on April 2 after husband Robert Vadra tested positive for Covid.

Several senior Congress leaders say not campaigning in Bengal in the first four phases was a conscious move by the Gandhis. In Bengal, the Congress is in an alliance with the Left parties while in Kerala it is engaged in a fierce battle against the incumbent Left Democratic Front (LDF). While campaigning in Kerala, Rahul had likened the Left to the BJP. “The Left Front is as divisive as the BJP. It’s interesting that the prime minister spends every single day talking about a Congress-mukt Bharat. I have never heard him say Left Front-mukt Bharat or Kerala,” Rahul said. Drawing similar comparisons, Congress general secretary and CWC (Congress Working Committee) member Randeep Singh Surjewala told India today that Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan was a ‘Modi (PM Narendra Modi) in a dhoti’.

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