Skip to main content

Congress in Gujarat: Waiting for Godot

A few days back, I happened to have an informal chat with a senior Congress leader. Belonging to Gujarat, this leader has made his way to the high command, going pretty close to party president Sonia Gandhi, which he more often than not nauseatingly proclaims, not unusual for a Congressman. Yet, I found something uncommon in him. I have known him before he decided to join politics more than a decade ago. At that time, he was more of a human rights activist, running an organisation in a backward Gujarat region which fought for the sake of a neglected section. I would enjoy visiting the far-flung areas under his influence talking with workers trained by him. One may dispute his approach and ways, but his unflinching commitment to the cause of the poor seemed impressive.
I always thought, this leader's decision to enter politics was wrong, as he would have to make odd compromises. Yet, he would brush aside my suggestion as "failure to understand certain advantages of politics." He once told me frankly, "What I can now do as a politician for the target population, I could never do it in the past." For instance, in the past, he would have to wait for hours to meet a senior government official to get justice for this neglected section, but now he could pick up the phone and talk directly with the Gujarat chief secretary!
Be that as it may, during the informal meeting, which lasted for two hours, I came out satisfied -- that his commitment to the poor, despite being in politics, remains somewhat intact. He was frank and forthcoming. And he stunned me with a rather drastic conclusion about the elections to the Gujarat state assembly, scheduled for December 2012, one reason why I decided to keep his anonymity, though I know those who are in the loop would identify him. He said, "Take it from me. We are losing in Gujarat. Modi will win hands down. We have no organisation or imagination to match him. I have conveyed my views to the high command, including the very top…"
I thought what he told me wasn't anything new, that there is a near unanimous view that chief minister Narendra Modi is invincible in the state. Perhaps Modi's critics are not wrong -- Modi has successfully institutionalised his Hindutva image, especially among large sections of urban middle classes, who see him as a great defender ever since the 2002 communal riots. I am amused when some of my middle class relatives and friends tell me, without mincing words that sans Modi there can no development in Gujarat. "There is no one else, in BJP or Congress, who has his guts", they argue out endlessly.
But what this Congress leader said was quite interesting. "Gujarat is 40 per cent urban. Modi is popular among the urban middle classes, where we are extremely weak. Out of 182 assembly seats, Modi's BJP has an upper hand in 60 urban seats. The baseline for the BJP, therefore, is 60, while we start at zero. It's a fight between two incompatible contestants. For a majority, we would have to win at least two-thirds of the rest of the non-urban seats, which is a very tall order, considering the fact that in Gujarat those who live in urban areas have strong rural links", he said.He further stretched his argument. "Remember the days when the poor would think Congress as their party? This image is getting dimmer with every passing day in Gujarat, like elsewhere. Now, our leaders in Gujarat rarely go to slums to take up fight for them. They were not seen taking up the leadership when the slum dwellers were being displaced under the Sabarmati riverfront project in Ahmedabad. In fact, they have no cadres to work among the poorer sections. Even today poor in urban Gujarat are willing to believe that the Congress is their party, of Dalits and OBCs, which have been our traditional voters. But we have nobody to mobilise them or take up their issues", he said.
In fact, he regretted, the current effort is to divide seat allotment in the forthcoming elections between two influential communities of Gujarat -- Patels and Rajputs. His argument ran on following lines: The Patel leaders in the party, like Siddharth Patel and Narhari Amin, are out to convince the high command that the Patels are unhappy with Modi and that they would vote Congress. They cite the instance of ex-CM Keshubhai Patel's open rebellion against Modi in Patels' community meetings to prove their point. As for the Rajputs, leaders like Shaktisinh Gohil and Shankarsinh Vaghela believe they would mobilise the OBCs who are descendents of the foot soldiers prior to independence -- Thakores and Kolis.
"There is no strategy focused on the urban poor. If you do not take up the problems the urban poor face, be it housing, wages, basic infrastructure facilities like bijli, sadak, pani, who would back you?", he wondered, adding, "Comfort level of our leaders is very high. There is a leader who would play cards till late in the night in clubs and switch on mobile late in the morning. Another leader, an ex-party president, would run the party sitting from the enterprise office he owns in Ahmedabad." As for Muslims, they may vote Congress, but they will get Congress just about half-a-dozen seats in urban areas. Meanwhile, the Congress leader said, the prospective Congress candidates willing to be MLAs in the urban areas are living in a strange illusion. "They think, Rahulji will come to campaign in Gujarat, wave a magic wand, and things will change. They haven't learnt any lesson from what happened in Uttar Pradesh. If you don't do any grassroots work with poorer sections, you will not succeed", he insisted.
---
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/true-lies/congress-in-gujarat-waiting-for-godot/

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Surprised? Communist candidate in Ahmedabad bypoll in a Hindutva bastion

On October 11, 2019 morning, as I was scanning through daily news online (I don’t read papers now), I found that both BJP and Congress candidates from Ahmedabad’s Amraiwadi assembly constituency, which fell vacant following the victory of its BJP MLA in the Lok Sabha polls, have been asked to explain as to why they had cash in hand for election campaign, and why they did not deposit their money in a bank account. Fighting the bypoll, BJP’s Jagdish Patel and Congress’ Dharmendra Patel had declared they possessed Rs 1.81 lakh and Rs 1.70 lakh as cash in hand, respectively, for election expenditure.

When Gandhi said Congress can 'only die with the nation'; warned of its weedy growth

I don’t recall when, why and how, but I have been under the impression for decades that Mahatma Gandhi wanted the Congress dissolved after India attained Independence. However, a few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised on seeing a Facebook post by Hari Desai, a well-known Gujarati journalist and a Sardar Patel expert, putting on record and claiming that this, indeed, was never the case. Desai released the photograph of “Harijan”, edited by Gandhi himself, dated February 1, 1948, which carried an article by Gandhi written on January 27, 1948, three days before he was murdered, clearly stating that the “Indian National Congress ... cannot be allowed to die”, and that it can “only die with the nation.”

A top Gujarat High Court lawyer who lived and worked for the underprivileged

When I came to Ahmedabad to join as assistant editor of the Times of India in 1993, I didn’t know Girish Patel was a senior advocate of the Gujarat High Court. Apart from assisting the then editor, Tushar Bhatt, my job was to specifically look after the editorial page, which also meant I should be selecting from among the letters to the editor that we would get, edit them appropriately, and put them in the Letters to the Editor column.

Attack on Gandhi: Where diehard Left and extreme Right appear to meet

Another Gandhi Jayanti has come and gone. Several of the top comments – some which we also published in www.counterview.net – on this occasion hovered around US president Donald Trump calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi “father of India”. Perhaps things wouldn’t have taken a turn that it did had not Modi’s “diehard” followers like Union minister Jitendra Singh going so far as to say that those who “do not feel proud” of Trump’s comment that Modi is the “father of India”, do not consider themselves Indians.

Nitish Kumar a 'Modi-fied' chief minister 'refusing' to hark to reason

Yesterday, I came across an unusual Facebook post by my veteran journalist colleague, Law Kumar Mishra. It recalls an incident which took place when Mishra was posted in Rajkot as the Times of India correspondent during of the worst droughts in the region in late 1980s. At that time Amarsinh Chaudhury was Gujarat chief minister. Currently Patna, Mishra compares how Chaudhary handled drought with the way Nitish Kumar has been handling Bihar floods.

The enigma called Amit Shah

Those were turbulent days. It was, I remember, second half of March 2002. The post-Godhra riots in Ahmedabad, as elsewhere in Gujarat, may have lost their intensity, but rioting had still not stopped. It was my first meeting with Amit Shah, Gujarat’s former minister of state for home, who has shot into prominence after the CBI arrested him in 2010 allegedly for being an accomplice in a triple murder case, involving the fake encounter of a gangster, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauserbi, and aide Tulsiram Prajapati. At that time, he was MLA from what then was one of the largest state assembly constituencies, Sarkhej, in Ahmedabad, with a voters’ strength of 10 lakh. All that I knew of him was, he was “very popular” in his constituency, almost invincible. He had just met chief minister Narendra Modi, and I had a very vague idea on his proximity to Modi, who had taken over reins in Gujarat.
Shah was coming out of the chief minister’s office (CMO), situated on the fifth floor of Block No…

Enlightened Buddha didn't want monks to get enchanted by the glance of a woman

Some of my Dalit friends, including Martin Macwan, whom I respect as one of the best human rights activists I have met, have a great fascination for Buddhism. Nearly all Dalit rallies or functions I have attended carry with them Buddha’s photographs. Probably, one reason could be that Dalit icon Babasaheb Ambedkar converted to Buddhism because he believed this was the only religion of India which does not believe in casteism. Many Dalits, not without reason, get converted to Buddhism.

Rupani is a better choice as Gujarat CM, but is that enough?

You can be a frank and an approachable leader, but is that enough for you to solve social issues which bog society? Soon after Vijay Rupani became Gujarat chief minister on August 5 evening, a top Sachivalaya insider, whom I have known for more than a decade, phoned me up to know what people thought of “the new incumbent”. Hesitant, I told him that he knew Rupani for quite some time, in fact ever since Rupani was in the Rajkot Municipal Corporation, hence he should know better. Refusing to be named, he didn’t mince words, “Rupani is frank, approachable, dynamic”, adding, “It has always been a boon to work with him.”

Why Hindu rites make me recall theatre of absurd and Backet's Waiting for Godot

As I was student of English literature for five long years (1970-75), doing my BA (Hons) and MA course from Delhi University, I (quite like my classmates) never read anything about a term towards which I was to become fascinated in late 1970s -- theatre of the absurd – apparently because it was a French concept. Coined by critic Martin Esslin in his 1960 essay "Theatre of the Absurd", at that time I had only vaguely knew that it pertained to post-World War II plays written by European playwrights.

Why should one doubt 'popular' Soviet support to Nehru was spontaneous in 1955

A lot is being written on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Howdy event in Houston. Indeed, none can can deny it was a grand success, so much so that even Opposition Congress leaders have begun praising it. One of the most commented, adversely of course, is President Donald Trump calling Modi "father of India".