New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will embark on his fourth visit to Gujarat on Saturday. Hitting the campaign trail in the BJP bastion of north Gujarat — Gandhinagar, Banaskantha and Sabarkantha, Gandhi is aiming to consolidate the grip of the Congress among the Patidars. Interestingly North Gujarat was the epicentre of the Patidar agitation. The Congress has already opened channels of negotiations with Patidars for their support.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who has been appointed as a special negotiator with the Patidars, has already held a meeting with leaders of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti to find ways of giving reservation to the Patidars.
Insiders privy to the meeting said that the Congress showed political commitment in fulfilling reservation for Patidars in educational institutions and government jobs.
Meanwhile the Congress on Friday began the process of shortlisting candidates for the Gujarat polls. Insiders claim that all Gujarat Congress MLAs who voted for the party during the Rajya Sabha polls, would be repeated.
Sources indicated that the Congress Central Election Committee on Friday cleared the names of 70 candidates for the first phase of Gujarat polls. The meeting was chaired by Ms Sonia Gandhi. The first list is only expected to be released sometime later next week.
The party is being very careful in candidate selection as it has to accommodate followers of Alpesh Thakor who recently joined the Congress. Apart from Thakor it is Patidar leader Hardik Patel and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani who will also have to be accommodated.
Since the Congress has already announced an alliance with the Sharad Yadav faction of the JD(U) they would also have to be given proper representation in the division of assembly segments.