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Posted on Nov 03, 02:10PM | IANS
As the election campaign in Gujarat heats up, the state Congress, which has been out of power since 1995 when it lost to the BJP, is confident of ousting the three-term Narendra Modi government in the December polls.
"The people of Gujarat are fed up with the Modi government. Modi claims Gujarat is vibrant and he has well-oiled machinery to propagate his lies. But the people of Gujarat have realised and exposed his fake claims. The Gujarat voter will give a befitting reply in December. Modi will be defeated," said a confident Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil of the Gujarat Congress.
But how will the Congress counter the onslaught of Modi, with his enigmatic personality and shrill rhetoric, that too in a state which has remained polarised since 2002?
"We are exposing Modi's lies. 'Vibrant Gujarat' is a myth. Modi's Gujarat is vibrant only for his five pet industrialists, not for the 'aam aadmi'. Over 16 farmers have committed suicide due to debt or poverty. Crimes against women have increased. Over 16,000 children have gone missing during the Modi regime. Modi moves around with 300-plus commandos, but there is no safety net for the people. Farmers and small and medium entrepreneurs are all tired and feel betrayed.
"We are voicing the concern of the aam aadmi and thereby exposing Modi. His benefits have been for Tata and Essar only. He has doled out benefits. There is nothing for the aam aadmi in Gujarat," Gohil told IANS in an interview.
He also debunked the perception that Modi had brought development to Gujarat. "Listen, only those who have NOT been to Gujarat before 2001 are touting it as developed. Gujarat has always been developed and progressive."
What about the fact that the Congress in Gujarat is in disorder? That it has not even projected a chief ministerial candidate till now?
"There is no leadership crisis in the Gujarat Congress. Unlike the BJP, we don't have an authoritarian dictator imposing his whims and fancies on us. We are a democratic party and for us, the organisation matters more than any individual. We don't have a system of declaring chief ministerial candidates," Gohil said.
What will the Congress' poll strategy be? How will it reach out to the state's five distinct regions, its communities and groups like farmers?
"We are focussing on the whole of Gujarat and not any one particular region. Because the entire state needs to be freed from the clutches of Modi," Gohil said.
"As far as communities are concerned, the aam aadmi will vote for the Congress irrespective of his or her caste and class. And Muslims in Gujarat are not carried away by Modi's 'Sadbhavana' (goodwill) farce."
"Farmers will get uninterrupted power supply. Right now, that is not the case. Also competitive prices for their products. Right now, farmers are the most hassled section in the Modi regime. Their land is being snatched away by mafias. All this will be checked through a special farmer's policy," Gohil said.
Elections to the 182-member Gujarat assembly will be held Dec 13 and 17 and votes will be counted Dec 20.
The BJP has 117 seats in the outgoing assembly and the Congress 59. The Nationalist Congress Party has three seats and the Janata Dal-United one, while there are two independents.
While the BJP first came to power in March 1995, Modi became chief minister only in October 2001. The party was returned to power in the 2002 and 2007 elections. Between 1995 and now, the state was briefly under President's Rule in September-October 1996 and was then ruled by the Rashtriya Janata Party, which had broken away from the BJP, from October 1996 to March 1998, when the BJP returned to power.
(Rajat Ghai can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)