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'Amit Shah's money can't buy 150 seats for the BJP'

November 16, 2017 09:11 IST

'In Gujarat, for 22 years when the BJP was in power, they sold only dreams, but the delivery was zero.'

Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil tells Vinay Umarji why the party is more confident this time of forming a government in the state.

Through social media campaigns, the Congress has taken a dig at the Bharatiya Janata Party's development agenda. Will that be enough?

We have come up with the slogan, 'Navsarjan Gujarat', where we are raising issues of how Gujarat was already developed before the BJP came to power, but under that party, there has been a gap between the haves and the have-nots.

 

The BJP did not fulfil the genuine demands of Gujaratis. In Gujarat, for 22 years when the BJP was in power, they sold only dreams, but the delivery was zero.

The Congress is offering to recreate a Gujarat where we will fulfil the needs of the people.

There is anti-incumbency and lot of anger among people. There are problems in education -- no new government colleges have been started.

Lack of cost-effective quality education, jobs for youth, reasonable power and minimum support prices for farmers are some of the issues we are raising during the campaign.

For instance, as against the promise of Rs 2,000 per kg of cotton for farmers, when Narendra D Modi became prime minister, support prices went down to as low as Rs 800 to Rs 900 per kg.

The Congress did well during the 2015 panchayat polls and is perceived to be stronger in rural areas. What is your strategy for gaining urban votes?

Urban people are also unhappy with the BJP now. For instance, one of the BJP's major vote banks used to be traders mostly in the urban areas.

But due to the goods and services tax and demonetisation, they are angry and even writing on their bills that 'Kamal ka phool, hamari bhool (Lotus -- the BJP's symbol -- is our mistake)'.

We have now established a rapport with traders. Problems in education, jobs for the youth are urban issues that we are picking up. We are sure to have a good run in urban areas too during the election.

Only industrialists, who are the government's blue-eyed boys, have grown in Gujarat under the BJP. If we come to power, we will offer balanced development.

The BJP has set itself a target of 150 seats. What about the Congress?

This is sheer arrogance. It is because of the BJP's arrogance that people are angry.

It is not that Amit Shah's money can buy 150 seats for the BJP.

We have not set any target for ourselves.

We will fight all 182 seats of the state assembly. With the blessings of the people the party will win and we will form the government.

The Congress has been fighting the polls without a single chief ministerial candidate and is depending on Rahul Gandhi. Will the lack of a CM face affect its prospects?

We have a tradition in the Congress of fighting in a united way and when we win, the party decides the candidate.

In Uttar Pradesh, even the BJP didn't project a face as there were 11 leaders vying for the post of CM.

Senior BJP leaders have also said that while the party is fighting the election with Vijay Rupani as chief minister, a new CM will be decided by the high command if the party wins the elections.

So even the BJP is not sure about its chief ministerial candidate.

On the contrary, not having a CM face will work in our favour because it shows that we are fighting in a united manner.

We have leaders representing almost all the communities and are together in this and respect the party high command's decision.

Do you think the induction of OBC (Other Backward Classes) leader Alpesh Thakor into the Congress will adversely affect Patidar support to the party?

These three youngsters (Thakore, Jignesh Mevani and Hardik Patel) have fought the establishment and exposed the BJP's failure.

The BJP has tried to polarise, but it will not succeed in the name of religion or caste.

People have understood this and hence, it will work in our favour.

There is no conflict of interest among the communities because we have already clarified that we will give reservation to all those communities which are not covered by it.

Those who are economically backward and not in the reservation category will also get reservation, but it won't affect others.

The BJP government had offered 10 per cent reservation for the EBCs Economically Backward Classes), which was struck down by the high court in the absence of any scientific survey.

Unlike the BJP, we will have a scientific survey and be able to overcome any legal hurdles.

How will you counter Shankersinh Vaghela who has formed a new party, the Jan Vikalp?

The people of Gujarat are wise. Voters have never voted for any candidate who is simply playing politics.

There won't be any negative impact on the prospects of the Congress.

Is there any change in your strategy for the election?

Earlier, there was criticism that senior party leaders in Gujarat were not well grounded. That has changed.

All state party leaders are now visiting taluka-wise across Gujarat.

Scores of booth-level meetings are being held daily, apart from the rallies being led by the party vice-president (Rahul Gandhi).

This is why we are even more confident of the people's support as we find anti-establishment sentiment in these places.

We will try to have at least one leader conducting a taluka-level meeting.

We will look to cover all the major geographical regions -- north, central and south Gujarat as well as the Saurashtra and Kutch regions.

We will look to reach out to all communities and sections of society.

IMAGE: From left, BJP Gujarat president Jitu Vaghani, BJP national president Amit A Shah, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel in Gandhinagar. Photograph: PTI Photo

Vinay Umarji
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