Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Anti-incumbency rising in Gujarat: Congress’s Bharatsinh Solanki

Bharatsinh Solanki, the Congress party's Gujarat unit chief, says that anti-incumbency sentiment against BJP government is rising and the reasons are misrule, corruption and arrogance

New Delhi: Bharatsinh Solanki, the Congress party’s Gujarat unit president, says that the anti-incumbency sentiment against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state is rising and the reasons are misrule, corruption and arrogance.

In an interview with Mint, Solanki accused the BJP-led government of being anti-people and said that the Congress’ state unit is gearing up for the 2017 assembly election. Edited excerpts:

The Congress has been out of power in Gujarat for nearly 20 years. What is the party’s game plan for the upcoming polls?

The fundamental point is that the Bharatiya Janata Party is an anti-people party and that has been proved in Gujarat. People, particularly the middle class, voted for the BJP for 20 years. Ultimately, what did they get? Any kind of agitation, raising of voice by Patidars and Dalits, among others, is brutally crushed by the BJP. Anti-incumbency sentiment is rising and the reason is misrule, corrupt rule and arrogant rule.

Congress has become the voice of the poor and the middle class. Though we were demoralised after 2014 elections, gradually after I became president of the state unit, we tried to take workers and leaders together and ultimately confidence levels were raised.

What are your plans?

The Congress is organizing itself at the grassroots level, booth level, block level, district level and at the state level. At the same time, it is propagating the policy of ‘navsarjan’ (renewing development)—after we win, we will revive the original industries of Gujarat. This will create employment.

Our campaign will be on (the) issue of development and telling the people that the (Narendra) Modi model is for a few people and not for all the people of Gujarat.

How do you see the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) into Gujarat?

AAP is a by-product of BJP. I don’t think AAP is a serious contender in this election. Anna Hazare, who is the guru of (Delhi chief minister Arvind) Kejriwal, has said that he will campaign against Kejriwal.

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Will the Congress have an alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)?

Today, it seems like that, though I am not sure because it will be a decision of the high command. As for my personal view, I don’t know about the NCP right now. I don’t know whether we will have a coalition or not. If any party is genuinely helping us in defeating communal forces and helping Congress win elections, then we look forward to such a situation. Today, as we see, I don’t know whether such an alliance will happen.

Gujarat recently witnessed Patel and Dalit agitations. What impact will they have on the assembly polls?

We have made our stand very clear. Our in-charge general secretary Gurudas Kamat and other senior party leaders had a series of discussions after which it was decided that we stood by the agitations. We called for 20% reservation for extremely backward classes, not cutting into the 49% for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes. This agitation started because of the grouse of the people. Farmers are unhappy, small traders are unhappy, educated youth are unemployed, price rise is high and law and order is a problem.

The Patidar community is intelligent and hardworking. They want Guajrat to grow and develop. They will look at who is not cheating them, who is helping them and who is going to make the future of Gujarat and particularly its youth on issues like employment. That will be the fundamental issue.

Is the Congress looking at forming alliances?

A time may come, but right now, we think we will fight on our own.

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