Political activities are heating up in Gujarat where assembly elections will be held at the end of this year as Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi kicks off his Gujarat Assembly election campaign here on Monday with a direct dialogue with party activists from all across the 182 constituencies, in keeping with the party’s focus on strengthening and revving up the organization. Congress VP Rahul Gandhi today said the ruling BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were “scared” of the outcome of the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls as their much-touted “model of development” in the state had failed.
Encouraged by Ahmed Patel’s win in the Rajya Sabha election, Gujarat Congress is looking to come back to power in the state after nearly two decades. Rahul Gandhi alleged that the much hallowed Gujarat model has failed in the state. Gandhi expressed confidence that Congress will be able to make a comeback in the state and form government.
He said the much talked about model has not helped “youth, farmers, small businessmen or shopkeepers”, and has only been beneficial to a handful of people. Rahul Gandhi even highlighted several issues like GST, demonetization and unemployment which Congress will try to use to corner BJP in the upcoming elections.
Addressing party workers in Ahmedabad, Mr Gandhi exuded confidence that the Congress, in opposition in Gujarat for nearly two decades, would come to power after the polls, likely to be held later this year. “This time, I firmly believe no one can stop the Congress from forming the next government in Gujarat,” the 47-year-old Amethi MP said.
The Congress leader said the Gujarat “model of development” stood thoroughly “exposed”. “The BJP and Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) are scared of the outcome of the Gujarat Assembly polls. You cannot hide the truth for long. The hollowness of the BJP’s Gujarat model of development has been exposed now,” he said.
Mr Gandhi alleged the model had not helped anyone “be it the youth, farmers, small businessmen or shopkeepers”. Only some 5-10 people benefited from it, Mr Gandhi said without taking names.
Attacking PM Modi, the Congress leader said his government was putting “undue pressure” on the media. “We know that Modiji is pressuring the media. Even some media persons have told me that they are scared,” he claimed.
He asked party workers to fight against the BJP at the booth level and expose the saffron outfit’s “lies”. “You have so many issues for this election such as hardships being faced by farmers, demonetisation, GST and unemployment. Our workers will fight against BJP at the booth level and expose their lies,” he said.
The event at the Sabarmati Riverfront – a waterfront on the banks of the Sabarmati – was an outreach programme for workers. At the event named “Samvad” (dialogue), Gandhi interacted with party workers and answered questions sent to him in advance by them. Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki read out the questions and the party vice president answered them.
According to Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee president Bharatsinh Solanki said, “Rahul interacted directly with workers from all 182 assembly constituencies. He also had meetings with NGO representatives, industrialists and other businessmen and took feedback from them.”
In view of the recent setback to the party during the August 8 Rajya Sabha elections when as many as 14 legislators quit the Congress and eight of them voted for the BJP against the official nominee Ahmed Patel, the opposition party is trying to ensure its flock remains together.
As part of this exercise, as many as 122 new office-bearers were recently inducted, including four working presidents, despite an existing full-time state chief, besides formation of committees on election, candidate selection, campaign and manifesto, accommodating functionaries from all regions.
Simultaneously, the party issued sack orders to eight legislators who cross-voted for the BJP during the Rajya Sabha elections and also initiated similar action against six others on the contention that they resigned and joined the rival party while the whip to vote for the official nominee was already out.
With the argument that they had defied the official whip and could invite disqualification from contesting any election for another six years, the party is planning a legal recourse to ensure they are barred and the rival BJP is unable to field them in the elections.
Rahul Gandhi will be in Gujarat again for four days from September 22 during which he will extensively tour the Saurashtra region in the west and the flood-affected North Gujarat districts.
With heading assembly election of Gujarat state, the political parties have begun to boost their campaign. The two major parties; BJP and Congress have begun to prepare their camps as they have started to make necessary changes among the party posts at different levels. BJP President Amit shah will be in Gujarat in this weekend.
(Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior journalist based at Ahmedabad , Gujarat and can be contacted at abdulhafizlakhani