(This article was originally published by The Economic Times on 04/01/2019.)

Buoyed by its recent electoral success in three Hindi heartland states, the Congress has set its eyes on Gujarat – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah’s home state.

The party, which failed to win any Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat in 2014, has initiated ‘Mission 50%’ in the state ahead of the upcoming general election. It has identified half of the 26 parliamentary seats in the state that it feels it can win this time round and has initiated a massive grassroots exercise of putting together booth-level committees and finding committed party workers.

According to people privy to the plans, Mission 50% will target 13 Lok Sabha constituencies – Anand, Amreli, Banaskantha, Sabarkantha, Patan, Junagarh, Dahod, Bardoli, Surendranagar, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Bharuch and Mehsana.

The constituencies have been identified after a meticulous exercise of analysing the results of the previous two assembly elections and two Lok Sabha polls. “These constituencies are largely rural segments or reserved constituencies where the Congress has had a presence and could garner more support,” said a senior Congress functionary, who did not wish to be identified.

The party has assigned a Gujarat Congress secretary to each assembly segment under these constituencies. Secretaries have been asked to work according to a plan which includes identification of booth-level workers, organising them into proper committees, verifying each active Congress worker in the entire assembly constituency and conducting engagement programmes with party workers. “This will be implemented in approximately 270 booths in each assembly segment,” said the functionary.

Congress leadership has finalised a broad list of candidates as well, said one of the persons cited earlier. “Some of them have even started working in their areas,” he said. “However, the list will be announced closer to the election after talks with allies.”

The entire grassroots exercise will also be monitored by a private consultancy, which will authenticate the data and give back-end support. Mission 50% is being overseen by the All India Congress Committee secretaries incharge of Gujarat, Jitendra Baghel and Bishwaranjan Mohanty.