With less than two months to go for Assam elections, the opposition Congress hopes to put up a strong fight against the ruling BJP, despite several top leaders switching parties in the last five years.
The party hopes to follow the Chhattisgarh model, after it successfully unseated the Raman Singh government in a landslide victory in 2018 polls.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel is the Congress’ observer for this Assam election, and has imported a dozen of his tacticians to mentor leaders and workers from every constituency in the art of taking on the BJP.
Every training session begins with the administration of an oath (in Hindi) – the oath reinforces the individual’s resolve to remain committed to the Congress and to India’s constitution.
Members of ‘Team Baghel’, as they are called, have been handpicked by the Chief Minister and are camping out in different parts of Assam, working on everything from booth-level sessions to workshops for party leaders.
“The commitment and dedication in the way they worked against the BJP. With that same spirit, dedication we can fight in Assam to oust the BJP,” Assam Congress Chief Ripun Bora told NDTV.
The team consists of advisors to the Chief Minister, cabinet ministers, MLAs and district functionaries, and their progress is being monitored by Mr Baghel, who is also one of the Congress’ star campaigners for this election, directly.
“In Chhattisgarh we had rigorous training for people from below booth levels and, therefore, were able to develop a strong base. Here, we realised that there are already many workers… we only need to unite them… to motivate them and make them ready to fight polls,” Vinod Verma, an advisor to Mr Baghel, told NDTV.
The exit of top Congress leaders, MLAs and party workers over the past few years has left the opposition party in rickety condition. The death of three-time Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in November last year made things worse, and left the Congress without its tallest leader in the state.
Meanwhile, while the BJP’s defeat in Chhattisgarh in 2018 came as a shock to the party, it is confident that there will not be a repeat in Assam.
“Congress has been losing elections one after the other. Where have they won (in the past) and who is their leader (now)… for us, in this election, the Congress is not the main opponent,” Parimal Suklabaidya, a cabinet minister, told NDTV.