B K Hariprasad is a Congressman in the classical mould. He came up the ranks -- from student politics, to being a member of various political bodies, to president of the Seva Dal etc.
The Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka and party general secretary in charge of Gujarat has actively managed many assembly elections but faces his biggest challenge in December.
He has been touring Gujarat for the last one year to help rebuild the party.
In New Delhi it is Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, planning and plotting the downfall of the Bhartiya Janata Party and Chief Minister Narendra Modi in Gujarat, his loyalist Hariprasad keeps his ears on the ground and reports to him.
The party has assigned six senior Congress leaders including Digvijay Singh the responsibility to supervise the campaign in Gujarat.
Hariprasad was in the news recently for his vitriolic attack on Modi. At a public meeting he said that Modi was 'born in a gutter who doesn't know his father's name'.
He spoke to rediff.com's Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt.
We don't see Congress as energetic as the BJP in Gujarat? Why is it so?
Probably rediff is not following the Congress. We started our election campaign last November with regional meetings of Congress workers. On January 28, Sonia Gandhi held a public meeting in the tribal area of Deogadh Baria. It was such a huge success, that the Gujarat chief minister was taken aback. Without thinking of the pros and cons, he announced a package for the tribals. Before Mrs Gandhi's meeting he had no plans for the tribals. After that he announced a Rs 15,000 crore package for them. Nobody knows from where this money will come from.
In February, we had a huge protest rally in Gandhinagar. In March, we had a cycle rally. We also had a marathon walk from Sabarmati to Porbandar which was addressed by the Congress president. A month later, we had a huge kisan rally attended by seven lakh farmers. Our activities in the tribal areas continue. We have been successful in countering Modi in these areas.
In Gujarat, factionalism within the Congress will negate these efforts. The Congress is not united here. You can't hide this fact.
Yes, I agree. I am not denying it. The Congress is the biggest and oldest political party. In Gujarat there are broadly three factions in the party. One is made up of loyal Congressmen, one from the former Janata Dal (former chief minister Chimanbhai Patel's group) and one belongs to the rebel BJP faction (the group led by former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela). After Sonia Gandhi took over in 1998, factionalism has come down considerably. Now, they say, 'Whatever Sonia Gandhi decides we will accept it.' This time factionalism is not the serious problem.
Congressmen, who have remained loyal to the party for decades, are asking where they stand. Whenever tickets are distributed, the quota is fixed for the Urmilaben Patel faction and the Vaghela faction. What remains goes to loyal Congressmen. They feel they are getting a smaller pie and this is the core problem in the Gujarat Congress.
I have visited all districts of the state three times. I have addressed partymen and have told them that whoever has a chance of winning will get the party nomination. He or she should be loyal to the party and be able to win his seat. Only these two criteria will be applied.
What role do you think the Patels with play in the election?
The Patels are the base of the BJP. They are the people who have build the party in Gujarat. After the BJP came to power, they have been humiliated. The Patels have revolted against Narendra Modi, not against the BJP. I cannot say the extent of damage but they will harm Modi's future. The Patels were responsible for the BJP's comfortable survival so far.
Modi's claims of being a Hindusmarat has not gained much credibility. The Patel factor matters to the BJP. They stood by the BJP and now they feel left out. Let us see how they react in elections.
How are you going to attract the Patels when your top leadership including the party president are Kashatriyas?
The Patels may or may not be against the BJP but they are definitely against Modi. As far as my party's president Bharat Solanki is concerned, he belongs to the new generation.
His father and grandfather might have propagated the KHAM theory but he goes by the Congress ideology. In addition, I am not saying that Patels will come to Congress but they will definitely defeat Modi. They will be inactive within the BJP. Some rebels have expressed a desire to join the Congress or have asked for support. We have left the decision to the state Congress.
Can you envisage a day when Keshubhai Patel may join the Congress?
He may not join the Congress. He is a die-hard Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh and BJP man. But, his silence will cost the BJP.
How do you see the Hindutva factor? Do you think Gujarat is a saffron state?
I don't think so. The Gujarati people are not fanatics. They know where they stand. They were taken for granted by Modi since he provoked the Hindutva ideology in 2002. I do not think that scene can be recreated now.
I am not sure you will talk candidly or not but don't you think Modi is popular?
Look, even Phoolan Devi was a popular. It does not mean that she was a leader. Phoolan Devi was far better than Modi. She fought against exploitation but here to capture power Modi was responsible for what happened in Gujarat in 2002.
Don't you think he knows how to create a constituency for himself and get votes?
Madaris on the street also attract people. In this country with vast diversity, we have to take people along with us. Secularism does not confine us to two religions -- Hindus and Muslims. Secularism means the government belongs to every citizen. To us secularism is not even about understanding between the two communities. For us it is much more than that. We believe in Sarva Dharma Samabhav.
Which are the issues you will be raising against the Modi government?
The total failure of Modi on all fronts. There is a total failure of law and order. There is no security for children and women. I have never heard such news of rapes of women in Gujarat. Children are being kidnapped for ransom in Surat. Modi is not competing with progressive states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh. He is competing with states like UP and Bihar where murder, kidnapping and rapes are the order of the day.
What are you talking? In newspapers, we do not get such a picture.
Who were those two Koli girls (one girl was murdered and one was raped in Junagadh)? How many children have been kidnapped in Surat? Some cases have not been registered. In the Supreme Court his government has admitted that police have killed Sohrabuddin Shiekh in a fake encounter. What more evidence you want for failure of law and order? Gujarat was always number one or two in terms of development. Now it is sixth. In terms of investment, it has gone down. In terms of agriculture produce it is in 12th position. He promised 18 hours of power to people but he is unable to give six hours of power a day. The health and education system is in disarray. The problem is that man speaks about five crore Gujaratis but serving only five crorepatis.
Can you give me a fair account of Modi's tenure?
Modi is not a human being. He is a sadist who enjoys power at other people's agony.
Quite strong .
Yes, yes. This kind of approach in public life can never be tolerated. He is playing with people's emotions. We will never do that.