Retaining Rajasthan a do-or-die battle for Congress JAIPUR: The Congress has to retain Rajasthan and Delhi, which will ultimately shatter the prime ministerial dreams of Narendra Modi. This is the thinking of top Congress leaders who are burning midnight oil to win at least the above two states in the forthcoming assembly polls to be held in five states, seen as a semi-final to the general elections next year. Once the two states are won, the Cong think tank feels that it will deflate the hype created around BJP's prime minister candidate Narendra Modi and checkmate his ambitions as helmsman at the Centre. "From Ahmedabad to Delhi, one (read Modi) has to go via Rajasthan only. And, we are leaving no stone unturned to see that Congress retains Rajasthan and Delhi for which party head honchos are personally involved. The high command has left the other three states for local leaders to take most of the calls," said a senior Congress leader, on assurance of anonymity. The leader preferred not to be named as party strategists are playing their cards close to their chest. Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram are the other poll-bound states. In case of Rajasthan, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi are personally monitoring the poll preparations as core members of their teams have been frequenting Jaipur at regular intervals. Party general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan Gurudas Kamat, who replaced Mukul Wasnik a few months ago, has developed one-to-one rapport with leaders belonging to various factions. Party insiders say that soon after taking over, Kamat briefed Rahul Gandhi about the state of affairs including the sentiments of senior leaders and workers after which a paradigm shift took place in poll planning. "Pre-poll surveys conducted by the party indicated that internal strife could prove to be the biggest bane for the party. Kamat has firmly worked on cementing ties among the rival factions. His efforts have paid dividends, as all senior leaders are working coherently," said a Congress leader. Ashok Gehlot government policies have won laurels and those will be the main poll plank for the party. However, the widened gap among the Congress workers and those holding positions in the government was seen as a major stumbling block, which, the central leadership took up forehand. Changes are visible in Congress poll strategy. Once known as Gehlot's nemesis, national general secretary and Bhilwara MP CP Joshi is integral part of the party think tank. The screening committee for selection of candidates consists of Gehlot, Kamat, Ajay Maken, PCC chief Chandrabhan and Rajya Sabha MP from Odisha, Ram Chanda Khuntia. However, Joshi has attended most of the screening committee meetings in the recent past. The two leaders have buried the hatchet, apparently at the behest of the high command, in larger interest of the party. Party insiders say that Sonia and Rahul have insisted that the list of candidates will be finalized only by them to ensure no space for partisan politics. "There were apprehensions that local leaders will bat for their loyalists, which could have affected the party adversely. The high command is proactive and persisting with its interest in Rajasthan affairs only to keep flocks together," said a senior leader. Among all five poll-bound states, Congress brass has given maximum time to Rajasthan (obviously other than Delhi). Senior leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul visited the state on several occasions. Besides, the Centre played pivotal role in sanctioning populist projects like refinery at Barmer, for which Sonia Gandhi laid the foundation stone even when requisite sanctions like environment clearance was still awaited. Congress has pinned high hopes in Rajasthan thanks to a few populist policies like free medicine and pension scheme. Moreover, party foresees strong possibility of dissidence in the BJP after candidates will be finalized. Party sources say that several ticket seekers in the BJP spent enormous amount of money and denied tickets, they will dampen party prospects. Congress leaders also expect rich returns from the alleged veiled camaraderie between Gehlot and Meena community leader, Kirorilal, who is moving places, almost everyday in a chopper.