The Congress in Rajasthan is set to hold a massive rally – featuring senior leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, and chief ministers from all party-ruled states – to target the centre over inflation and skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, including vegetables and fuel.
The rally is to be held in Jaipur. It is understood that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will not attend.
The rally is significant because it is expected to set the tone of the party’s campaign for seven Assembly elections next year, including in the politically key state of Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, and Punjab, where the party is battling to retain power.
Dubbed ‘mehangai hatao‘, the rally will see top Congress leaders share the stage in a show-of-strength for a party facing a strong challenge from Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Ms Banerjee, fresh from a thumping of the BJP in her state, is widely seen as making a beeline for the space currently occupied by the Congress – that of de factor leader of opposition parties – ahead of a tilt at Prime Minister Modi and the BJP in the 2024 election.
Rajasthan Congress leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot has said the ‘mehangai hatao’ rally will be the downfall of the BJP government at the centre, which has been severely criticised for rising prices by several opposition parties.
“It will become a factor of downfall for the BJP government at the centre in 2024,” Mr Pilot said in a statement. They will have to explain seven years’ “misgovernance” and check inflation, he said.
It is unclear if Mr Pilot will also take to the stage at the Jaipur rally.
The relationship between the younger leader and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot remains strained, even if their feud moved to a degree of resolution last month after a cabinet reshuffle that saw five MLAs from his camp, including two were sacked during the revolt, join the state government.
The mega rally is also being seen as a ‘re-branding’ of the Congress with the younger Gandhi siblings at the helm and taking point as the party is seen fighting for important national issues.
The Congress has limped from one poor electoral performance to another over the past few years, leading a group of senior leaders (dubbed G23) to question the Gandhi family’s leadership.
A successful high-profile public event will, the party hopes, help in quietening divisions, particularly since a leadership crisis has been festering in Punjab, where the party’s backing of Navjot Sidhu saw veteran leader Amarinder Singh quit as Chief Minister and resign from the party.
Mr Singh has announced his own party and has spoken of a seat-sharing deal with the BJP.