‘This vote is against the BJP, Narendra Modi and Anandiben Patel.’
‘Modi is the prime minister but in his hometown the Congress is winning. We have has got positive votes.’
As the Congress makes gains in the Gujarat civic elections, former state Congress president Arjun Modhwadia explains the reasons for the BJP’ s poor show.
The Congress has made major gains in the Gujarat civic polls, especially in rural areas.
It has been able to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party in many rural seats and has increased its vote share in many of Gujarat’s cities.
Former state Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia, below, left, spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com on what worked in favour of the Congress and why the BJP lost even in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home town of Vadnagar.
What is the reason for the Congress’s victory in the Gujarat civic polls?
People were very upset with the fake promises of the BJP in the 2012 assembly elections as well as the general elections of 2014. Secondly the corruption level is very high in Gujarat and so was the arrogance of the BJP leaders. Therefore, people voted against the BJP. In short, arrogance and corruption were the reasons for the BJP’s downfall.
Do you think the absence of Narendra Modi in the elections made a difference to the BJP’s prospects in the state?
He has been elevated as the prime minister but Anandiben Patel, the chief minister of Gujarat is working under him. The BJP has lost the elections even in Vadnagar, the native place of Modi. Even in Anandiben’s native place the BJP has lost. This vote is against the BJP, Modi and Anandiben.
You think the Patel agitation has worked in favour of the Congress?
The Patel community has definitely voted for the Congress but even in non-Patel areas, the party has won in a big way.
It is still seen that the BJP is powerful in the cities of Gujarat and it is in rural areas that the Congress has won more.
In the cities, the BJP used the strategy of delimiting seats. They strategically divided Congress voters. Secondly, on the day before polling, they deleted lakhs of voters from the voting list. In Ahmedabad alone, they deleted 104,000 voters.
Therefore we did not succeed in the cities but still the Congress has increased its vote share in a big way in the cities too. At the same time, we have won many seats too.
Do you think there is a fatigue factor in the people to see the same BJP faces as they have been ruling for the last 20 years in Gujarat?
In the 2014 parliamentary elections in Gujarat, the BJP won 26 out of the 26 seats. Today, Modi is the prime minister but in his hometown the Congress is winning the elections. The Congress has got positive votes. People are very angry with the BJP be it the prime minister or Anandiben Patel.
Do you feel Modi is losing touch with Gujarat politics?
Yes, he still believes that he can win by ‘jumla’ politics. It will not work anymore. Verbal assurances will not work and one has to perform. In the Delhi assembly, the BJP lost to the Aam Aadmi Party. In Maharashtra they did not get a full majority. In Bihar again they lost. In the Ratlam (Madhya Pradesh) by-elections the Congress won by 78,000 votes. There is anger against the BJP.
What was the Congress strategy after you lost so badly in the 2014 elections?
We worked on grass-root level politics and therefore we won.
Do you feel the youth of Gujarat believe in the words of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi more than that of Modi?
It is not the case of Gujarat alone. Youth all over the country believe in Rahul Gandhi and are joining him. Modi promised five crore jobs for youth but not even five lakh jobs have been given. In Gujarat, the BJP had to face the wrath of these youngsters the most.
I am repeating my question: can you give credit for your victory to the Patel community?
It is not that the Patels are in every block and area of Gujarat. The seats where Patels are in large numbers, we did win many seats but in other areas too we won in big numbers.
Were the farmers of Gujarat upset with the BJP and therefore voted against them?
Yes, they had a lot of water problems and that of roads. In rural areas they did not give minimum support price (for farm produce). The BJP had promised that they would increase the MSP for groundnuts but they did not do it. In fact, they reduced it. Besides that, inflation also played an important role in the defeat of the BJP.
Is it true the BJP government is not paying attention to the plight of farmers over MSP?
They had said they will implement the M S Swaminathan committee recommendations. The BJP promised that whatever the input costs of farmers they would provide 50 per cent more as MSP. They didn’t do that.
They promised that cotton, which had the minimum support price of Rs 1,100, they will take it to Rs 1,500 and today they are not even taking cotton at Rs 800.
Has the BJP moved away from farmers then?
Yes, the BJP has really become a suit-boot ki sarkar. The people have started believing it. It is not Gujarat alone which thinks the BJP is suit-boot ki sarkar, the whole country thinks that way.
Though it is local elections and minor vis a vis national politics, do you think this result will affect national politics in any way?
You see, whatever Gujarat does, the country follows. The BJP grew in India from Gujarat only and went to rule the Centre. And today, the downfall of the BJP has begun in Gujarat and you will see that effect in the coming days. The BJP’s downfall all over India will be due to these Gujarat local elections.