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'Congress is far away from the sentiments of people'

March 15, 2024 08:00 IST

'The people of Gujarat understood this a long time ago and has since been rejecting the party and its programmes.'

IMAGE: Former Gujarat Congress chief and ex-MLA Arjun Modhwadia joins the BJP. Photograph: @BJP4Gujarat/X

In a move that has sent shockwaves through the political corridors of Gujarat, Arjun Modhwadia, the former Gujarat Congress chief, has announced his decision to part ways with the Congress party and join its arch-rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Modhwadia's sudden defection has left the state Congress unit in disarray as he is a seasoned politician known for his grassroots connections and sharp political acumen.

While some see his decision as a strategic manoeuvre to secure his political future in the face of diminishing prospects for the Congress party in the state, others view it as a betrayal of his long-standing allegiance to the Congress.

Since the BJP's resounding electoral victory in the 2022 assembly elections -- when the BJP won a record 156 seats and Congress could secure just 17 -- in Gujarat, Modhwadia is the third Congress MLA to resign from the party after Chirag Patel and C J Chavda, bringing the effective strength of the party to 14 in the 182-member Gujarat legislative assembly.

Modhwadia spoke to Prasanna D Zore/ about the reasons why he quit India's Grand Old Party after being a part of it for 40 years.

"After 2022 Congress is almost decimated," says the ex-Gujarat Congress chief about the prospects of his parent party in the state that has been in the iron grip of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he became the chief minister first in 2001.

You have finally quit the Congress after 40 years and joined the BJP. The reason that you gave was that he Congress is anti-Hindu.

Not only anti-Hindu but they are not understanding the sentiment of the people. It (that the Congress is anti-Hindu) is one of the reasons. Not the only reason.

They are far away from the sentiments of the people.

Are you referring to the religious sentiments of the people?

Every sentiment; they are not communicating and they are disconnected with the people. Central leadership is disconnected with the people.

By central leadership you would mean Rahul Gandhi or the central leadership which is now being led by president Mallikarjun Kharge?

I don't want to give any name. But they are far away from the state unit. They are far away from the workers. They are far away from people at large.

That is why we have even in our state and at the central level lost the status of the LoP (leader of Opposition). The status of the opposition party.

What took you so long to realise this?

I waited so much. I tried my best. I tried my best to communicate and to address the situation but I failed.

On the other side, the Bharatiya Janata Party under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are well connected with the people. They are doing the development of the country at great speed. India will soon become a (USD) 5-trillion economy and boast of world class infrastructure. I do want these kinds of achievements for my state, for my country and for my district.

Former Congress Rajya Sabha MP Naran Rathwa, who joined Gujarat BJP recently told that he could not match the money power that Narendra Modi has. That the BJP under Modi has huge amount of money. So people like him don’t have the capacity to spend from their own pockets. Do you agree?

I don't agree with this but the problem is the party is disconnected with the people.

You were defeated by BJP's Babuhai Bhokiriya in 2017 from Porbandar and then you defeated him from the same seat in 2022. But the BJP has named Mansukh Mandviya from Porbandar?

I don't have any (national) aspirations. Whatever my party (the BJP) decides I would perform my duty as a worker and contribute for the development of the state and my district in my own way.

Would you be playing any role in national politics?

Whatever role my party assigns to me now, I would act accordingly.

Could you give us some hard, believable reasons why you joined the BJP after 40 years in the Congress?

The party (Congress in Gujarat) has lost the confidence to connect with the people, to face them, to talk about their issues, to talk their language. The Congress is not comfortable raising people’s voices, their demands.

The people of Gujarat understood this a long time ago and has since been rejecting the party and its programmes. They have no faith that the Congress leadership could deliver development for Gujarat or for the country.

There is no coordination between the state and central unit of the party when it comes to designing a new campaign or messaging for the people of Gujarat.

I have been conveying this to the state as well as central leadership but I didn’t see any efforts by the party to mends its ways. There is only that so much I could do.

After all my sincere efforts when I realised I cannot make the party sync in with people’s sentiments I decided to quit Congress.

Everybody seems to be deserting the Congress in Gujarat today…

After 2022 the Congress is almost decimated.