Upbeat on the eve of the election results, Congress leaders today hailed Gandhi's Gujarat campaign as a "winner", saying his issue-based strategy would bring positive results for the party tomorrow when counting will take place.
"We are confident of victory in Gujarat. The manner in which Rahul Gandhi spearheaded the campaign and used issue-based politics, he put the BJP on the mat forcing them to resort to non-issues for public sympathy," Congress general secretary in charge of Gujarat Ashok Gehlot told PTI.
Gehlot, the former Rajasthan Chief Minister who was sent to Gujarat to lift party's morale ahead of the high stakes election, appeared confident of a Congress win in the state.
Asked whether the Gujarat election result would be the first test of Gandhi, who assumed charge as Congress President this Saturday, Gehlot said, "It is not the issue of whether he is on the test or not. The issue is the way he came in and assumed leadership of the Gujarat campaign forcing state government's accountability and cornering the PM (Narendra Modi) and BJP chief on development issues."
"They had no answers to Rahul Gandhi's questions and were forced to rake Gujarati pride. In this lay Rahul Gandhi's victory. He has already proved himself," he said.
The BJP has been in power in Gujarat for 22 years. Gandhi single-handedly steered the Congress campaign in the state this time around.
Another Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia, former Congress legislature party leader in Gujarat, said the state was sure to "fall in Rahul Gandhi's lap" after the aggressive and successful development-based canvassing he launched.
"The BJP was so cornered by Rahul Gandhi's insistence on answers about Gujarat's development or lack of it that the PM and BJP President Amit Shah had no option but to peddle non-issues. Gujarat is sure to land in Congress kitty after Rahul Gandhi's spirited show there," he said.
Modhwadia noted that all exit poll results predicting a BJP win will stand reversed when actual results come tomorrow.
Gandhi worked on new political strategies in Gujarat to take on the BJP in prime minister Modi's home state, including visiting a series of temples in an apparent attempt to project the Congress in a soft Hindutva mould.
Another strategy was the understanding it reached with dominant and emerging caste leaders in Gujarat, including Hardik Patel of the Patidars, Jignesh Mewani of the Dalits and Alpesh Thakor of the OBCs.
Results of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections are being widely considered as the first test of Gandhi, the new Congress president.