A week after BJP, Congress also rings the door-to-door bell of poll-bound Gujarat, starting from Naranpura of Ahmedabad, the same constituency where BJP Party President Amit Shah had launched the BJP’s door-to-door campaign.
There must have been some strategic reason behind choosing this particular venue, as Naranpura is not just the bastion of BJP but also of Amit Shah, who step foot into politics as a booth-level party worker, from this very constituency. It was Shah’s constituency before he resigned to join as the Rajya Sabha member.
Gujarat Congress in charge, and former Chief Minister of Rajasthan, also recently known as the Chanakya of Congress in Gujarat, Ashok Gehlot and State Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki launched the campaign on Tuesday. Both the leaders split into two teams and knocked on the doors of the Gujratis seeking their vote. However, unlike BJP, Congress did not get much response. To capture the attention of the people, Congress also carried a portable speaker that Solanki used at some places.
BJP under the leadership of Party President Amit Shah had launched a similar campaign on 7 Nov and to add a personal touch, distributed a personal letter written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking their support.
When questioned about the low response of the people to Congress campaigners, a party member said that “It is enough that our campaign has been launched from here and the party president has come. All of us know it is a BJP bastion.”
Ashok Gehlot and Bharatsinh Solanki were accompanied by 50-100 congressmen also. While Shah boasted about the achievements of BJP in past 22 years and especially under Narendra Modi, Solanki, on the other hand, used the card of soft Hinduism. Modi’s letter asked the people to choose development over dynastic politics, communalism, and casteism, whereas Congress’s pamphlet read promises to the people if the Congress comes to power including unemployment allowance to educated youths, loan waiver for farmers, cheaper power, cheaper petrol and diesel, lower housing tax, affordable and quality education, and a house for every homeless woman.
The two Congress leaders also visited the Kankariya Hanuman temple near Bhyangdev locality before starting to meet voters. This move is being regarded as a strategic policy of the party to clear the anti-Hindutva image of Congress. Later the Gujarat Congress President also offered prayers at Panchdev Mahadev Mandir.
The fact that Congress is playing every move very cautiously can be clearly depicted as throughout the Gujarat election campaign, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, not once projected himself out of the soft Hinduism card.
The party is also extremely prudent to not to take any step that might result in losing the support of the OBC, Dalits and the Patidars. During the campaign, Bharatsinh Solanki was confronted with a Patidar women named Jayshreeben Patel. She complained about the civic issues faced by the community and also added that the politicians only approached them when they needed votes. Taking into account her grievances, Solanki assured her that her problems will be addressed by the Congress.
The state party president was also accompanied by Nitin Patel, who is seen as the probable Congress candidate for Naranpura. In a statement to the press, Patel admitted that Congress was seen active in this region after a very long time. ‘Yes, all this is being done after a long time. The Congress’s festoons must have been put up here [in Naranpura] after 22 years,” he said.
For the last two Lok Sabha elections, Naranpura was a designated assembly segment of Gandhinagar. This is only the second assembly elections that the constituency is facing, as the seat was formed after delimitation in 2008. In the previous polls, Amit Shah had won the seat by over 60,000 votes, polling nearly 70% of the vote.
As for now, no successor of Shah has been announced but it is being speculated that the probable name may be his close aides Ajay Patel who is the chairman of Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank and current Ahmedabad mayor Gautam Shah.
Naranpura consists of 2.75 lakh voters, mainly comprising middle-class Patidars, OBCs and Jain communities, Dalits also form a marginal part of the electorate here.
Meanwhile, Congress is on its toes using all possible political formulas to end its 22 years of political exile in Gujarat, the party is also calculating its every move very safely. The party is quite vigilant as to not project the Gujarat battlefield as a field of war for ‘Modi vs Rahul’. The Congress Vice President himself has abstained his party members from making any from personal and intimidating comments on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rahul Gandhi is trying to project the Gujarat assembly elections as a war between the people of Gujarat vs BJP, claiming that the Gujaratis are with the Congress this time. Therefore Rahul has only targetted the BJP on the economic front using note ban and GST as its main weapons. Call it an election strategy or something else, but the fact cannot be denied that, Rahul has gone an extra mile to personally connect with the people of Gujarat. Be it taking selfies and distributing sweets to the children or getting photographs clicked with the Adivasis.
Tha rigorous campaigning of the Congress definitely indicates that the party is desperate to win these polls and mark their presence be felt in the political world of India. Gujarat is known as the fort of BJP and the party has been ruling the state for 22 years, also it is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. If the Congress manages a victory in Gujarat it will surely be a turning point, giving new twists to the political equation in India ahead of the Lok Sabha elections due in 2019.
Gujarat will go to polls on 9 and 14 Dec in two phases and the results will be announced on 18 Dec, along with the results of Himachal Pradesh assembly elections which were held on 9 Nov.