Antony panel report a prelude to Gujarat polls

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: May 3 2012, 08:48am hrs
The Antony committee looking into the Congress poll debacle in the last round of Assembly polls in five states is yet to finalise its report but the effect of its deliberations will be seen in the campaign for the Gujarat Assembly elections. A positive campaign focused on the development work of the central government, and no negative or communal campaign will be allowed.

Top sources in the Congress party confirmed that the Antony committee was damning in its indictment on the way the Uttar Pradesh campaign was run. The UP campaign saw Congress play the communal card worse than any communal party, and the casteist elements worse than any caste based party, said a senior Congress leader.

The irresponsible statements made by Union ministers Salman Khurshid Sriprakash Jaiswal and Beni Prasad Verma have also been condemned, especially on the Muslim sub quota issue. Even when the Congress moved away from caste and communal issues to economic ones like the bunkar (weavers) package, it was targeted at one community, the backward muslims or Ansaris, said the leader.

Therefore, for Gujarat, the effort will be a more positive campaign, and Union ministers have been told to collect figures on central schemes regarding the states, which can be used in the campaign, said the source. The last time round, the Congress had used a negative campaign against Narendra Modi which hadnt worked. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had called him maut ka saudagar or merchant of death in an election meeting in Gujarat, polarising the electorate and giving an advantage to Modi.

The Antony committee has also pointed out that the Congress organisational network remains weak in many places. When candidates from other parties like BSP and SP were given Congress tickets, it was on the understanding that they would also be bringing in their support base or party workers. That didnt happen, in fact we took in candidates without support bases, said a senior leader privy to the report.

The last meeting of the panel will be held on Thursday, and while a similar report is lying with the Congress president on another round of disastrous polls in 1999, leaders are hoping that cues for the Gujarat campaign will be taken from it.