Congress draws solace from victory in Himachal

New Delhi, Dec 20 (IANS) Congress leaders Thursday looked at positives from the results of assembly polls after the party scored a clear victory in Himachal Pradesh but failed to check Narendra Modi from scoring a hat-trick in Gujarat.

Party leaders contended the results showed that people were not angry with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). The Congress won a simple majority in Himachal Pradesh and improved its tally by two seats in Gujarat.

"It is a pleasant moment for the party as far as Himachal (Pradesh) is concerned... In Gujarat our seats improved," Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed told IANS.

But the results in Gujarat pointed to leadership crisis faced by the Congress in the state. Both its Gujarat unit chief Arjun Modhwadia and leader of legislative party Shaktisinh Gohil lost the elections.

Ahmed said the party will build new leadership in the state.

"New leaders will come up. We have 61 MLAs," he said.

Ahmed said a reason for Modi's victory in Gujarat was hype created by the media that he will become the prime ministerial candidate and helped him gain votes.

"There was media hype that he will become prime ministerial candidate if he wins the Gujarat election," he said and added that the media also "forced" the BJP's national leadership to say that Modi had qualities to become prime minister.

Ahmed, who is incharge of party affairs in West Bengal, said "Keshubhai factor" was another reason for the party's defeat in Gujarat.

"The anti-Modi vote got divided," he said, pointing to Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) of former chief minister Keshubhai Patel which fought the elections.

Congress leaders said the results in Himachal Pradesh were a reply to the BJP campaign against the UPA government on price rise and its economic policy decisions.They said decision to cap put a cap on subsidised cooking gas cylinders was taken days before the Himachal Pradesh elections and the BJP attempted to capitalise on the issue. They said the party had wrested a state from the BJP.

"At the national level, people have endorsed the UPA. Results of Himachal Pradesh clearly indicate people are not angry with UPA," Congress general secretary B.K. Hariprasad told IANS.

Top Congress leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, party chief Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi campaigned in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Congress leaders emphasised that the party had done well in seats where Rahul Gandhi addressed rallies.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said the Congress had won the seats in which Rahul Gandhi campaigned. Rahul Gandhi heads the Congress coordination committee for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and has faced criticism from opposition parties over his campaign in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh assembly polls which did not result in major gains for the party in these two states.

The results of elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat have virtually marked the start of poll season with polls to nine states slated for next year and Lok Sabha polls in 2014.Congress sources said that the results may trigger internal demands for revisiting its strategy not to project chief ministerial candidates.

Though Virbhadra Singh was the face of the Congress in Himachal Pradesh, the party did not project him as chief ministerial candidate. The party did not project any leader in Gujarat.

--Indo-Asain News Service

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