Gujarat is all set to face one of the toughest fights in the decades in this assembly election scheduled on December 9 and 14. While opinion polls conducted by different channels have anticipated BJP’s victory, it didn’t neglect the Congress’ huge influence that has been increasing by every passing day. The poll-bound state is going to see a neck to neck fight as India’s oldest party is all set to give some real competition to the saffron party in the country.
The Congress looks all set to eat into BJP’s vote share or at least leave a greater mark in Gujarat assembly polls. In an interview with Newsd, Congress national spokesperson, Priyanka Chaturvedi, who has also been appointed as the convenor of the communication department of AICC recently, talked about the current situations in Gujarat, her party’s hopes from the polls, and the reason behind Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s increasing popularity on social media as well as on the ground.
Here’s what she has to say:
How do you think Rahul Gandhi has done when it comes to campaigning? What are the main issues in Gujarat today?
In terms of campaigning, the response we are getting from Gujarat is a testimony itself as far as Mr Gandhi and his acceptability and popularity are concerned. Rahul Gandhi has been speaking consistently on the issues that impact the people of Gujarat and it is the reason why people are looking at him and the Congress party as an alternate model.
When it comes to the issues in Gujarat, whether it is Asha workers, farmers, Patidars, businessmen – everybody is unhappy with the development model of BJP and that is why people are able to connect with Congress. There is no equal growth, privatizations of education is another big issue, expensive education, women safety – these are some real challenges that are turning people towards us. Farmers are not earning a decent income. People are losing jobs after demonetizations.
Opinion polls show the momentum is with Congress. Do you think the new strategies like Rahul visiting temple or his takes on social media is working well? Is Congress winning Gujarat?
We are very confident that Congress will win Gujarat. People of Gujarat has shown faith and trust in a party that is truly talking about their development agenda while on the other hand, there is a party which is ruling Gujarat for 22 years but not even able to come up with a manifesto, vision documents or even a report card on what they have managed to do for the people in over two decades. There are several scams such as GSPC scam, land scam or buying power at the higher cost scam that has gone unanswered or not even investigated. These are the things, we are very confident about, will get the popular vote in our favour.
Rahul has never been so involved in any campaign before. Has this election turned into a prestige issue between Rahul and Modi?
I would not call it a prestige issue. The biggest challenge is to ensure that the development of Gujarat should speed up and it can only be done when everybody is taken along. And all the flawed policies that were put in place should be relooked at. It is an important battle like every election is an important battle for us. Eventually, politics is also about winning.
In view of upcoming polls, Rahul’s work is being appreciated and now even BJP’s ally Shiv Sena had said that ‘Gujarat polls has turned Rahul into a leader.’ How is congress taking all this?
Gandhi has always been a leader. There was an entire campaign of lies and negativity that BJP has spread about him. BJP’s campaign always was on pulling someone else down and never about issues that impacted the nation. But now, people are getting tired of all this. BJP has done nothing even after being the single largest party. On the other hand, we are open to suggestion, feedback. Gandhi has been a great leader and the acceptability, in the times to come, will only increase. People have come to realize the fact that an entire propaganda has been run against him.
It is being said that Rahul is taking on BJP and Modi on social media as he is incompetent to do verbally? Do you agree?
Absolutely disagree! One must understand that social media is part of a communications matrix, a way of reaching out to people. Gandhi has been on the ground as well and reaching out to people through meetings, Padyatras. Unfortunately, Modi believes in one way communications while ours always has been more personal approach and we connect individually. Rahul’s popularity will increase as BJP’s entire machinery today stands negative. It is Gandhi who brings issues to forefront be it GST, Land bill etc.
What do you have to say about the allegations that Congress has no vision of its own and it takes the support of others like the alliance in UP or Hardik in Gujarat to fight elections?
BJP can do say or do anything to spread the agenda. We are the second largest party with a considerable amount of vote share. And if we come up with alliances, that is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a sign that there are like-minded people who want to join hands together to take on bigger enemies who have deprived Gujarat of its true development. BJP too has alliances in Maharashtra, Manipur, and Assam. Alliances are a way of engaging like-minded people on a similar platform and fight for the right.
After losing Uttar Pradesh, you termed the defeat as ‘huge disappointment’ and had said ‘missing connection’ between people and Congress could be a reason. So, do you see a better connection between people of Gujarat and Congress today?
Yes. Wherever we go to people, our idea remains to connect and convince them about our agenda. We could not do that in UP, but you can see how quickly the mood of Uttar Pradesh has changed if we go by the results of local elections held recently. About 40 percent BJP candidates have lost their deposits. If you would not live by the promises, people will not appreciate you. We believe that we are connecting exceedingly well with people and the testimony lies in the fact that many people are coming forward in large number to connect with Rahul Gandhi.
What if Congress wins? What changes are people going to see in the state in coming days?
We have come up with a manifesto after talking to people of Gujarat. We listen to Jan ki Baat unlike BJP and know the real issues. That is what our manifesto shows. It is a roadmap that we will follow after forming the government if Congress wins.
Do you think the elevation of Rahul Gandhi will bring good fortune to Congress?
I am very certain that under Rahu’s leadership, the party will only grow. We will see a better connect, a positive and progressive leadership under his direction.
Is Rahul Gandhi prepared to take on Modi in 2019 polls? What are the issues your party is going to focus on?
2019 is a long way and a day is a long day in politics. Considering Gandhi has taken a fight head-on in a place that has been ruled by BJP and Modi for so long. It only shows the fight is on, the willingness is on and his leadership is totally capable and he is willing to take the fight forward.