Coinciding, by a pleasant surprise with the auspicious occasion of Rongali Bihu, the city of Guwahati played host to a sowing ritual of sorts. The Congress chief ministers’ conclave, helmed by Sonia Gandhi, had more to offer than just exotic cuisine and earnest harangues. The contrast with Goa, where the BJP national executive was meeting, could not have been starker, in terms of the stated sentiments. If the BJP was going back to its time-tested formula of belligerent Hindutva to tide over a string of electoral debacles, the emphasis here was squarely on the states—specifically, the 14 Congress-ruled states. The idea behind the two-day pow-wow was to showcase the party’s “good governance”, contrasted with the economic debilitation and civic strife that BJP rule was bringing elsewhere. Sonia showed a feel for the occasion, in declarative tones: “The nation’s eyes are upon us. The expectations are very high.”
The subtext was clear: the Congress was waiting in the wings to seize power, and a good showing in their states would help the party in the general polls.