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'Every Election, BJP Unleashes This Demon...'

May 03, 2024 08:48 IST
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'... dividing society not just on religious lines, but also creating rift in families and among brothers and sisters.'

IMAGE: Congress leaders Paresh Dhanani, extreme left, Amit Chavda and Rajiv Satav protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Ahmedabad in 2020. Photograph: ANI Photo

The Congress's Paresh Dhanani, who defeated the Bharatiya Janata Party's Parshottam Rupala in the 2002 assembly election, is once again pitted against Rupala in the Rajkot Lok Sabha seat, considered one of the most watched after contests in Gujarat.

The Rajput community in the state has been up in arms against Rupala, the BJP's sitting MP from Rajkot, and have been vowing to defeat him after his allegedly offensive remarks against their womenfolk. While Rupala has been apologising for his remarks the controversy seems to have earned the BJP the wrath of the Rajput community not only in Gujarat but across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Dhanani, who was initially reluctant to enter the fray against Rupala, tells's Prasanna D Zore, why he accepted the Congress invitation to contest the Rajkot seat against the Union minister, who is considered a confidante of Prime Minister Narendra D Modi.

Dhanani, a Patidar, just like Rupala -- while Dhanani belongs to the Leuva Patel denomination of Patidars, which make for nearly 80 per cent of the community in Rajkot, Rupala is a Kadva Patel -- refused to entertain questions that revolved around how caste equations would play out in this constituency.


Earlier you were reluctant to contest from Rajkot but entered the fray only when it became evident that the BJP candidate Parshottam Rupala was facing the wrath of the Rajput community. Does this new development improve the Congress's chance of victory in Rajkot?

I am not contesting to win this election. My only goal in coming to Rajkot is to protect the honour and pride of my mothers and sisters. Some people in politics enjoy humiliating our ancestors' bravery for petty political gains. It is time to teach such people how to respect and honour our ancestors and their bravery.

I am a true son of Gujarat and share the same lineage of Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, the Iron Man of India.

Under Sardar Patel, the Congress looked upon every section of society with equality and respect. But a new socio-religious ecosystem that took roots in Gandhi and Patel's Gujarat in the last three-four decades, underpinned by the British policy of dividing and ruling on the basis of caste, religion, creed, was espoused by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The BJP has so mastered this narrative of divisive politics that, on the eve of every election, it unleashes this demon dividing society not just on religious lines but also creating rift in families and among brothers and sisters.

I have come to Rajkot to douse the flames of these very rifts that the BJP has been using for more than three decades now to win elections and establish its political supremacy in Gujarat.

How do you see the ire of the Rajputs against Parshotta Rupala playing out electorally in Rajkot, from where you are contesting against him, and across Gujarat?

I have not come here to win an election and become an MP from Rajkot; I want to win the hearts of people of Rajkot.

I have come here to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the people here. Let the people of Rajkot decide who wins the election, but I am promising the people of Rajkot that I will work for them as their friend and brother.

I have come here with a renewed confidence that the people of Rajkot and Gujarat today have seen through the BJP's dirty politics and are sincerely looking for an alternative that can give them development as well as treat them with honour and respect.

Every section of Gujarati society today is angry with the BJP government's misrule in the state as well as at the Centre.

The BJP has been ruling India's villages and Parliamentm but instead of giving them justice they have been heaping injustices upon the people of India using their brute Parliamentary majority.

The BJP became the centre of people's hope, but instead of solving their problems the ruling dispensation, through their speeches, expressions and conduct is only espousing a sense of hopelessness among the people. They are more interested in humiliating different sections of society than in working for their socio-economic progress.

The arrogance of the BJP's leaders is responsible for converting the progressive, fun-loving people of Rajkot to those gunning for a fight in the political battlefield.

I am confident that in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections the people of Rajkot will give a decisive verdict and stamp out the arrogance of the BJP and its top leadership.

The Congress will protect the honour of the people of Gujarat and will do an encore of the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and win double-digit seats (from zero in 2019) from Gujarat.

IMAGE: Parshottam Rupala, the BJP candidate for the Rajkot constituency, during a 'Sneh Milan' ahead of the Lok Sabha polls at Gopin village in Surat.Photograph: ANI Photo

Wouldn't the Congress manifesto that talks about five nyays and 25 guarantees play a role in the party improving its performance in Gujarat?
Or is the Congress planning to play only on the ire of the Rajputs against the BJP because of Parshottam Rupala's remarks against the women of the Rajput community?

We have been connecting with the masses of Gujarat and propagating the salient features of our manifesto, which emphasises on the importance of social, religious and economic equality for all sections of Indian society. That will remain our primary objective.

We are telling them that it was Gandhiji who got India Independence and it was Sardar Patel who successfully realised Nehru's dream of unity in diversity and it is Narendra Modi's BJP which is today destroying the legacy of our freedom fighters but consigning the nation into the fire of socio-economic inequality and religious hatred.

We are telling the people of Gujarat and India how the BJP today is trying to finish off Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar's Constitution and trampling it under its feet.

The BJP is systematically destroying our Constitutional rights, our Fundamental Rights. Those who raise their voices against such mala fide actions are threatened by false cases with the help of the CBI, ED, and income tax, and browbeaten using brute police force to toe their line.

The BJP has been busy trampling the Fundamental Rights of those Indian citizens who are fighting against their arrogance to save the Constitution. Different sections of our society, at various points in the last ten years, have faced the ire of the BJP's arrogance and dictatorial DNA.

We have been trying to convince the people of Gujarat that their issues, problems might be different from one another, but the BJP is responsible for all their problems. We are seeking the support of the people of Rajkot and Gujarat to come join us, defeat the BJP's arrogance and take ahead their fight for self-respect and honour.

Are you fighting this contest against Parshottam Rupala on the emotive issue of honour and self-respect or tje Congress manifesto that promises 25 guarantees?

Aagey aagey dekho hota hai kya (Wait and watch how we defeat Parshottam Rupala).

What is your message for the people of Rajkot?

I bow to the swabhimani (self-respecting) people of Rajkot. On the first day of my campaign in Rajkot I have been beseeching people to join our fight against dictatorship, which is also responsible for the woes of the people of my constituency and this nation.

It is this attitude of arrogance that emboldens a political party to humiliate the bravery and honour of our ancestors.

If we fight unitedly then we can find a solution to the problems of price rise, unemployment, poverty, corruption, injustice. We need to fight this battle for justice together.

The BJP believes in snatching away the rights of the people and the Congress fights against such forces.

It was the Congress that fought against the British and drove them out of the country; today the same Congress will drive out the modern-day British out of India.

They (the BJP under Narendra Modi) have been working towards dividing India, but we are striving to unite India.

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