SOMNATH: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday dubbed Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal as a 'namoona' or buffoon, and accused him and his party of supporting terrorism and corruption. Speaking at an election rally in Somnath town in Gir Somnath district of Gujarat for BJP candidates, he also accused main opposition Congress of not respecting other people's religions because of its "Muslim vote bank". "A 'Namoona' (buffoon) from Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) who is visiting Gujarat now a days is a true well-wisher of terrorism. He had also opposed the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. He had sought proof from our brave soldiers when the Indian Army carried out a surgical strike in Pakistan," said Adityanath, who is among the Bharatiya Janata Party's star campaigners. "When the Pakistan government itself was admitting that the strike had broken their back, AAP kept on asking for evidence. Support for terrorism and corruption is in their genes," the UP CM claimed. "Professional rioters" as well as goons and criminals who enjoyed the patronage of Congress and its allies used to harass common citizens, poor people and traders in his state, Adityanath said. "But now riots no longer take place in Uttar Pradesh. Our bulldozers have made Uttar Pradesh riot-free," he said. "Do you believe that Congress would have removed Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir? Would Congress or AAP give consent for the construction of Ram temple? It was (prime minister Narendra) Modi ji and BJP government and Gujarat who stood by you in your difficult times. They gave you free treatment, vaccines and ration during COVID-19 pandemic," he said. Neither Congress nor AAP will respect your faith and neither of them are capable of protecting you, he told the audience. "Only the BJP can do that because we believe in Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (progress for all by taking along all)," Adityanath said. The Congress party and the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru opposed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's proposal to rebuild the Somnath temple, he alleged. "Because of its Muslim vote bank, Congress never wanted to respect your faith. That is the reason why Congress was against rebuilding the Somnath temple. But with his strong will, Sardar Patel went ahead with the construction. Even attempts were made to stop President Rajendra Prasad from attending the event. Can you support such a party?" Adityanath asked. He also accused the Congress of insulting Dr B R Ambedkar and trying to defeat him in elections. Reacting to Adityanath's swipes at him, Kejriwal took to Twitter and said people should vote for the BJP only if they wanted foul language, hooliganism, corruption and dirty politics. "And if you want schools, hospitals, electricity, water connections and roads then give your vote to me," said the Delhi chief minister who too is in Gujarat for campaigning. Gujarat will go to the polls in two phases on December 1 and 5.
Political leaders cutting across party lines took to social media Saturday morning onwards to observe Constitution Day. November 26 is being observed as Constitution Day since 2015. The Constituent Assembly of India adopted the Constitution on November 26, 1949.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before addressing the Supreme Court during the launch of the government’s e-court project, tweeted, “Today, on Constitution Day, we pay homage to those greats who gave us our Constitution and reiterate our commitment to fulfil their vision for our nation.” In his address, Modi referred to India as the “mother of democracy” and paid tributes to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.At the event, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said the courts must reach out to the people, pledging that every bench of the Supreme Court would hear 10 bail applications, preceded by 10 transfer petitions, from next week onwards.Today, on Constitution Day, we pay homage to those greats who gave us our Constitution and reiterate our commitment to fulfil their vision for our nation. pic.twitter.com/eKVwA7NdaB— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 26, 2022Last year, several Opposition parties, including the Congress, boycotted a Constitution Day event in Parliament’s Central Hall, saying the government was disrespecting the fundamental values of the Constitution and undermining parliamentary democracy. But this year, there no all-out criticism of the government from Opposition leaders, except Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Congress’s Jairam Ramesh.Vijayan tweeted, “India’s Constitution, which encompasses the ideals of our anti-imperialist struggle, is facing a wide array of challenges on this 73rd anniversary of its adoption. It’s time to join the fight to fend off such threats and defend its spirit and values on our #ConstitutionDay.”India’s Constitution, which encompasses the ideals of our anti-imperialist struggle, is facing a wide array of challenges on this 73rd anniversary of its adoption. It’s time to join the fight to fend off such threats and defend its spirit and values on our #ConstitutionDay.— Pinarayi Vijayan (@pinarayivijayan) November 26, 2022He added, “Today, the values of secularism, democracy and federalism in our country are facing serious challenges…The challenges being faced by our Constitution, even on the 73rd anniversary of its adoption, are not just trivial.”Congress general secretary in charge of communications Jairam Ramesh alleged that the “ideological fountainheads” of the BJP had nothing to do with the making of the Constitution and PM Modi decided to mark November 26 as Constitution Day as he “desperately” wanted to show respect to the document.“The draft Constitution was adopted by Constituent Assembly on 26.11.1949. Constituent Assembly decided it would come into force from 26.01.1950 which is since celebrated as Republic Day,” Ramesh tweeted.Ideological fountainheads of the BJP had nothing whatsoever to do with the making of the Constitution, the Congress leader said. “In fact the RSS was opposed to the Constitution of India. Desperately wanting to show that he respects the Constitution – while he subverts it daily in letter and spirit – the prime minister decided to celebrate November 26 as Constitution Day. This is sheer hypocrisy.”Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Babasaheb urged us to march on the road to unity. I will walk that road long enough, until every word of our Constitution is upheld, and every citizen stands protected by fairness and justice.”Babasaheb urged us to march on the road to unity.I will walk that road long enough, until every word of our Constitution is upheld, and every citizen stands protected by fairness and justice. pic.twitter.com/OUMCJKugxj— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) November 26, 2022At Tummalapalli Kalakshetram, Vijayawada, Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan and Andhra Pradesh CM Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy participated in a National Constitution Day programme.The draft Constitution was adopted by Constituent Assembly on 26.11.1949. Constituent Assembly decided it would come into force from 26.01.1950 which is since celebrated as Republic Day. Ideological fountainheads of BJP had nothing whatsoever to do in making the Constitution 1/3— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) November 26, 2022Addressing an election rally in Gujarat, MP and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said Muslims were legitimate citizens of India and no one could snatch this right from them as long as they stuck to the values upheld by the Constitution.Early in the morning, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi, “Our Constitution is the pride of our country’s democracy, this is the identity of the rights of us Indians. Best wishes to all the countrymen on Constitution Day. Protecting the constitution of the country, we will give our whole life to fulfill the dreams of Babasaheb and to make India the No. 1 country in the world.”
Campaigning for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Somnath, Bhavnagar and Amreli, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath Saturday attacked the Congress for “appeasing Muslims” by opposing the reconstruction of the Somnath temple and branded Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal a “true sympathiser of terrorism”.A recurrent theme across all three of his public addresses was that of national security and pride associated with the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, which, according to Adityanath, has been restored by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.He also appealed to the public to not vote for the Congress and the AAP and hailed his own administration in Uttar Pradesh and said “professional rioters, goons and criminals”, who flourished “under the patronage of the Congress and their allied parties”, have been bulldozed in UP to make the state riot-free.Evoking sentiments towards the Ram temple, Adityanath said, “In 1990, the yatra towards Ayodhya was started after seeking blessings at the Somnath temple. People used to say that if the Ram Temple is built, there will be bloodshed. I say not even a mosquito will die.”He added, “Now, riots do not happen in Uttar Pradesh. The professional rioters, goons and criminals, who flourished under the patronage of the Congress and its allied parties, who used to oppress the poor, businesspersons and the common people, have been bulldozed.”In Bhavnagar’s Gariadhar, Adityanath spoke of an improved national security under PM Modi. “Earlier, there used to be attacks every other day. When Modi became the chief minister of Gujarat, curfew and riots ended forever. When he became the Prime Minister, terrorist attacks stopped altogether.”He added, “Under PM Narendra Modi’s leadership, India’s cultural heritage is being honoured and taken to new heights. By constructing the tallest statue of Sardar (Vallabhbhai) Patel in the world in Kevadia, PM Modi honoured him. He also honoured Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar and in five places he was associated with, development of the panchteerth is being done by the BJP under Modi’s leadership.”He further said, “Congress never honoured Sardar sahab. When Sardar sahab wanted to restore Somnath temple, Congress had opposed it. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had opposed it. Congress, for the sake of the Muslim vote bank, never wanted to respect your faith. But Sardar sahab had pledged here that an independent India will not accept symbols of oppression and had taken forward the work of rebuilding the Somnath temple. Back then, president of India Rajendra Prasad wanted to attend the ceremony but efforts were made to stop him.” Adityanath further asked the crowd to not support the Congress.The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister made it a point to mention at all the three public addresses that Gujarat does not witness curfews, riots and Naxal threat anymore. Attacking Kejriwal, he said, “He is a true sympathiser of terrorism. He opposes Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and when the Indian Army does a surgical strike in Pakistan, he demands proof from our brave soldiers. Don’t waste your votes on those who are corrupt and support terrorism.”Adityanath further added, “No self-respecting person should vote for Congress or AAP. These two parties are power-hungry. They do not care about the country’s security, development or security of the common citizens.”Gujarat will go to polls in two-phases on December 1 and December 5 and counting will be held on December 8.Adityanath later attended a roadshow at Viramgam in Ahmedabad along with BJP candidate Hardik Patel. Recurrent chants of “Jai Shree Ram” and “Modi, Modi” by the crowd continued till the end of the roadshow.
Amit Shah addresses a rally in Talaja town in Gujarat's Bhavnagar district for a BJP candidateAhmedabad: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday said terror attacks were rampant when Congress was in power and terrorists from Pakistan used to kill Indian soldiers but the then ruling party never condemned them due to "vote bank" politics.Paying tributes to the victims of the November 26, 2008 (26/11) Mumbai terror attack, Shah said it is impossible to carry out such an attack under the watch of the Narendra Modi government."Today is the anniversary of the 26/11 attack. On this day (in 2008), Pakistani terrorists killed 164 persons in Mumbai. I pay my humble tributes to the departed souls. Though such attacks were rampant during the Congress rule, it is not possible to carry out a 26/11 type terror attack today because Narendra Modi is the prime minister," Shah said while addressing a poll rally in Talaja town in Bhavnagar district for a BJP candidate.Voting on Talaja and 88 other seats will be held on December 1 in the first phase of the two-phase Gujarat Assembly elections."Sonia (Gandhi) and (former PM) Manmohan Singh were in power for ten years from 2004 till 2014. During their regime, terrorists from Pakistan used to enter India frequently and kill our soldiers and even decapitated their heads. Despite that, Congress never uttered a word. Why? Because of their vote bank. I hope you know who is Congress' vote bank," the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said.He added PM Modi gave a strong message to the world by carrying out surgical and air strikes on terrorists after Uri and Pulwama terror attacks.The Gandhinagar MP also said the now-scrapped Article 370 (granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir) was the mistake of the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com"Didn't you want Article 370 (was supposed) to be removed from Jammu and Kashmir? For 70 years, these Congressmen preserved this Nehru's mistake as if it was a child. Our PM (Modi) removed it in one go in 2019 and made Kashmir an integral part of India in its true sense," he said.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)Featured Video Of The DayWatch Arvind Kejriwal's Townhall: "Give Me CBI For One Day..."
New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party boss Arvind Kejriwal today shared a video of BJP's star campaigner Yogi Adityanath calling him "a sympathiser of terrorism" during a poll rally in Gujarat, and pitched himself as someone who stands for "development" as against the BJP's "politics of abuses and hooliganism"."If you want dirty abuses, hooliganism, corruption, or dirty politics, then vote for them. If you want schools, hospitals, electricity, water, roads, then vote for me," the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in Hindi, retweeting a video which his UP counterpart had captioned: "This specimen from the Aam Aadmi Party who has come from Delhi is actually a sympathiser of terrorism."अगर गंदी गाली गलौज चाहिए, गुंडागर्दी चाहिए, भ्रष्टाचार चाहिए, गंदी राजनीति चाहिए तो इनको वोट दे देना। अगर स्कूल, अस्पताल, बिजली, पानी, सड़कें चाहिए तो मुझे वोट दे देना। https://t.co/kNtrOR2azB— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 26, 2022The AAP, buoyed by its victory early this year in Punjab, has mounted a high-decibel campaign to challenge the BJP in Gujarat where it's been in power for 27 years, including PM Narendra Modi's 13 years as chief minister. Pitching a former TV news anchor Isudan Gadhvi, as the AAP chief ministerial candidate, Mr Kejriwal has spent weeks in Gujarat speaking of "development" besides making appeals to the BJP's core Hindutva voter with demands such as Hindu gods' images on currency notes. The Congress, which increased its vote share in 2017, has been running a lowkey campaign — it calls that a strategy. It refuses to see the election as a three-way contest, dismissing AAP as "just hype". The BJP, too, sees the contest as a direct fight with the Congress.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comYet, the BJP has gone all-out and deployed its big guns, including the hardline Hindutva icon Yogi Adityanath, in the campaign. And the campaign has taken a turn towards the BJP's primal appeal, with Amit Shah saying "rioters were taught a lesson in 2002", and Yogi Adityanath, too, calling rivals "opponents of Lord Ram". In the video that Mr Kejriwal shared, Yogi Adityanath said that the AAP leader had "opposed the construction of Ram Temple, and even sought proof for the Indian Army's surgical strike in Pakistan". He said corruption and terrorism are "the same thing".
AHMEDABAD: Union home minister Amit Shah on Saturday said terror attacks were rampant when Congress was in power and terrorists from Pakistan used to kill Indian soldiers but the then ruling party never condemned them due to "vote bank" politics. Paying tributes to the victims of the November 26, 2008 (26/11) Mumbai terror attack, Shah said it is impossible to carry out such an attack under the watch of the Narendra Modi government. "Today is the anniversary of the 26/11 attack. On this day (in 2008), Pakistani terrorists killed 164 persons in Mumbai. I pay my humble tributes to the departed souls. Though such attacks were rampant during the Congress rule, it is not possible to carry out a 26/11 type terror attack today because Narendra Modi is the prime minister," Shah said while addressing a poll rally in Talaja town in Bhavnagar district for a BJP candidate. Voting on Talaja and 88 other seats will be held on December 1 in the first phase of the two-phase Gujarat assembly elections. "Sonia (Gandhi) and (former PM) Manmohan Singh were in power for ten years from 2004 till 2014. During their regime, terrorists from Pakistan used to enter India frequently and kill our soldiers and even decapitated their heads. Despite that, Congress never uttered a word. Why? Because of their vote bank. I hope you know who is Congress' vote bank," the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said. He added PM Modi gave a strong message to the world by carrying out surgical and air strikes on terrorists after Uri and Pulwama terror attacks. The Gandhinagar MP also said the now-scrapped Article 370 (granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir) was the mistake of the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. "Didn't you want Article 370 (was supposed) to be removed from Jammu and Kashmir? For 70 years, these Congressmen preserved this Nehru's mistake as if it was a child. Our PM (Modi) removed it in one go in 2019 and made Kashmir an integral part of India in its true sense," he said.
Vadgam in Banaskantha district will be one of the most-watched seats in the coming Gujarat Assembly elections because fighting to retain the constituency will be Jignesh Mevani who won last time as an Independent. This time, Mevani is in the fray as a Congress candidate.In a wide-ranging interview, he discusses both his own electoral prospect and that of his party, the Congress. He dwells on the issues of these polls, how the election this time is different from 2017 when he contested as an Independent, and the BJP.You contested as an Independent in 2017. This year, you are a Congress candidate. What is the difference?We all know that in Gujarat and across India there is an issue of literacy and for the rural people who are illiterate it is tough finding a symbol (of an Independent candidate). If not more, then 2,000 to 5,000 people must have faced difficulty in finding the sewing machine symbol (Mevani’s symbol as an independent candidate in 2017). So, in that context, I will benefit (as a Congress candidate).Apart from that, a big segment of the Congress was bewildered about where this issue of independent candidature came from (in 2017). So, that matter has been resolved, not that each and every party worker will be with me. By and large, Congress people feel good that now I am part of the party. So, it helps. And the Congress is a decades-old party. So, I get an added advantage of its symbol.Secondly, I get (formal) backing from the party, which was also there last time. A lot of party leaders and workers can also now see their prospects through me. Overall, it is an advantage for me to fight elections on the Congress symbol.The Supreme Court recently upheld the 10 per cent EWS quota. Do you see it affecting Gujarat elections in any manner?I don’t see much of an impact at the moment. Any positive or negative vibrations created by it have not reached me. Maybe, I am too lost in the campaign. Otherwise, generally, when this kind of ruling comes, there are reactions from both sides of the camp. One camp cherishes it, while another one discards it. But there has not been much talk about it.In the 2017 elections, the Una flogging incident was one of the major factors. This time, it is nowhere in the picture. How do you see the government’s attitude towards Dalit issues in the last five years?Dalits are largely working-class people. And they are the rural landless people of India. The same applies to Gujarat as well. So, the kind of economic policies the BJP stands for and the kind of economic disaster they have unleashed — inflation, unemployment, economic exploitation — all these issues affect Dalits. Even if there is no visible large-scale campaign, since it affects Dalits, they will stay away from the BJP.Secondly, wherever I have been able to campaign against the BJP in the last two years or so, we have done a lot of ideological work as well. We have explained what the BJP stands for. And why we should be away from them. Secondly, the Dalit middle class that benefited from the reservation policy is vocal enough to explain to the Dalit masses that the BJP is determined to finish your reservation, that the BJP and its frontal organisations are against the Constitution.So, you don’t see any change in the Gujarat government’s attitude towards Dalits?The attitude of the government towards Dalits is pathetic. They just don’t care. ‘You die, we don’t care.’ That is the approach. Despite demands coming from all corners and the issues being raised in the state Assembly, they neither care about the atrocity cases (SC-ST Act) nor do they care about implementing the scholarship scheme. (They are) not concerned about the formulation of the SC/ST Sub Plan Act. They don’t want to do anything about landless Dalits, they don’t want to allocate land, they don’t want to ensure the possession of already allotted land unless there is a call of agitation. So, the attitude is the same.The attempts they have made to bring Dalits to their fold have not worked. Because there is genuine unrest among Dalits. And even apart from me, there are many Dalit groups operating at the grassroots level that are constantly taking Dalits away from the BJP. Dalits have enough ideological material to take it to the Dalit masses to ensure they don’t go to BJP.In 2017, Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and you were fighting against the BJP. In 2022, Patel and Thakor are in the BJP. What do you say?Let the people of Gujarat judge it.You don’t want to say anything more than this?I have said everything I had to say.The AAP is claiming it will form the government. How do you see it as a political force in Gujarat?Everybody has the right to live in a fool’s paradise.Vadgam is a Muslim-dominated seat and the AIMIM has fielded a candidate here. Do you see any influence of the AIMIM in the constituency?There is some influence. But the wisdom the Muslim community has shown throughout, all across India, makes me believe that eventually it will be sorted out.Do you see your votes going down this time (owing to AIMIM and AAP candidates)?No. On the contrary, there is every chance that the (winning) margin may go up because of the Vipul Chaudhary factor (the imprisonment of the Chaudhary community leader has turned the group against the BJP), the local issues, and detachment of some of the very committed BJP workers of the Chaudhary community from BJP. Because of these issues, there is a lot of unrest and a section of the Chaudhary community likes me because of my work on the issue of water crisis.So do you see the Chaudhary community supporting you this time?This time it is clear and evident. They are openly saying it. They are campaigning for me because of the imprisonment of Vipul Chaudhary.Delhi AAP leader Rajendra Pal Gautam’s episode related to the Buddhist conversion programme was turned into a big poll issue by the BJP. After that, Gautam also resigned as Delhi minister. How do you see it?It has not gone well among Dalits. Dalits are enough educated and politically oriented to understand that to protect the so-called upper caste votes, the AAP has done it (make Gautam resign).After becoming the working president of Gujarat Congress, what has been your contribution to the party?As and when my party needs my services — in going and addressing the masses, taking up certain issues, focusing in north Gujarat and particularly in Patan and Banaskantha districts where I am the in-charge — I do that. So, whatever role has been assigned to me as a working president, I am doing that.In 2017, Congress won 77 seats and is now down to 59 MLAs. So many people have resigned. Against that backdrop, how do you see the way forward for Congress?It is undoubtedly difficult. And the manner in which Congress MLAs have been leaving the party is a huge concern for everyone in Gujarat and even for the central leadership. This is not sending a good message. But what can one do? It is a big concern for the party and there is no immediate solution. But the good thing is that despite all the efforts of the BJP, still we are 60 MLAs. We have not formed the government in the last 27 years but the Congress still has a tremendous base all across Gujarat. We have grassroots workers in almost every booth in every village. And the spirit is quite reasonable. But, it is a challenge and we need to do a lot more ideological work. We need to bring more people who are ideologically sound and aligned with the party.What are the issues in the current election?The undercurrent of a silent voter that I can see is that people have got crippled. It looks like people have lost the spark to even aggressively react against the government. I can see that the poor, labourers and the deprived make up such a class of voters. He (a common person from these classes) is depressed due to inflation and unemployment. The dream of achhe din shown by Modi saheb is being broken every day. So, I think inflation is the most important issue. For the youth, unemployment and paper leaks are major issues.People have been suffering from so many problems, but they have not been able to speak up after seeing the kind of oppression (the ruling party does). My Assam episode, the sedition cases against Hardik Patel, the case registered against journalist Dhaval Patel, and the case against Vipul Chaudhary — a big number of people are not able to speak since they have seen that this government targets people. So, dadagiri and tanashahi (coercion and dictatorship) are too much.Unemployment, paper leaks, inflation, and issues of contractual and government employees who are being exploited in government functions — not giving them the old pension scheme and issues of fixed-wage employees — all these are troubling people. Even if one cannot see a political narrative being set around it, these are the main issues.You emerged as a Dalit leader after the 2016 agitation. Since then, no major face has come up from the community. In the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, your organisation, do you attempt to groom young people for leadership roles?A leader cannot be made. A person becomes a leader with his hard work, struggle and talent. You cannot speak like me merely because I promote you. The guts to face imprisonment in Assam jail does not come merely because I promote you.Secondly, what is a leader?Everybody doesn’t need to get the fame and popularity that I got. At the district and taluka levels, there are many leaders. The Una incident got so much prominence that I became a face. There may not be faces like me, but there are a lot of leaders.Manibhai Vaghela (former Congress MLA from Vadgam) is the BJP candidate against you. How do you see his influence in Vadgam?Naturally, he will have contacts here since he was an MLA here. But my fight is not against an individual. My fight is against an ideology. A big force of the BJP is making efforts against me. The way I was targeted in the Assam case, and the way I was convicted in two cases after that. So much political vendetta is visible. I am fighting against the whole state machinery and not against an individual.
"Are we anti-nationals that our houses have to be demolished?" asks Vaishali.Jakhau (Gujarat): Standing outside her makeshift home, Vaishali Mangale is at a loss to understand why around 300 houses, huts, and godowns at the Jakhau harbour were demolished by authorities just ahead of polls in Gujarat for being "unauthorised" constructions.The Jakhau harbour, 120 km from Bhuj town in Kutch district, is part of the Abdasa Assembly constituency where polling will be held on December 1 in the first of the two-phase elections for the 182-member House.The issue of restoration of Jakhau Harbour, a major source of economic activity in the area, is an issue that the opposition has been harping on to target the BJP.The water crisis in the region, especially getting water from Narmada, is also a major poll plank of various political parties in the arid Kutch region.The Abdasa constituency, a stronghold of Congress, is now with the BJP after sitting Congress MLA Pradhyuman Sinh Jadeja switched to the saffron camp in 2020.A fish trader, who did not wish to be named, feels razing homes with bulldozers is more of a symbolic action than an administrative decision."The bulldozer politics is symbolic of sending a message to a particular community. The demolition of structures along the coastline has a general pattern," he said."Why was the time - just ahead of the polls - chosen for demolition?" Political analyst Hemant Shah said the demolitions were carried out to consolidate Hindu votes. "Demolishing some Hindu property during this exercise was aimed at projecting the government as being impartial," he added."Are we anti-nationals that our houses have to be demolished, and we have to be thrown out?" asks Vaishali.The district administration and the ruling BJP refuted the bulldozer politics claims, and said the demolition of illegal structures was necessary for national security."The demolitions were not undertaken suddenly. Eviction notices were sent to them last year, but they kept on building structures due to which there was no clear visibility of the coastline, which is very important for national security. The structures were demolished keeping in mind the national security," Superintendent of Police, Kutch (West), Saurabh Singh told PTI.The district administration, as part of state-wide operations in coastal areas of the state, including Porbandar and Dwarka, had demolished illegal structures considered a threat to national security.Mr Jadeja, the BJP candidate, said once the elections are over, the problems of the fishermen community will be looked into. "We are considering giving them land two kilometers from Jakhau harbour. The allegations that it (demolition) has been done to bully the minorities are baseless and politically motivated," he told PTI.A total of 10 candidates including BJP's Mr Jadeja, Mamad Jung Jat of the Congress and Vasantbhai Khetani of the AAP are in the fray.The constituency has a total of 2,49,484 voters, of whom around 11.7 per cent are from the minority community. The Scheduled Castes(SC) community accounts for about 14 per cent.Mr Jadeja is from the Kshatriya community and was the two-time Congress MLA from the constituency before switching over to the BJP in 2020. For him, the independents from the Kshatriya community and internal fighting within the BJP could pose some trouble.For the Congress, the AAP's entry is a threat, as it is wary that it might eat into the opposition space.In areas such as Abdasa, the work for the pipeline for the canal connecting it with the Narmada Main Canal (NMC) through Kutch Branch Canal is yet to start, thus leaving the entire region yearning for water.The fishermen of Jakhau recently submitted a memorandum to Kutch district collector, drawing his attention to people living in the open after their homes and huts were demolished during the demolition drive last month, citing coastal security."Our hometown is in Valsad, but we stay in Jakhau for nearly 10 months of the year as the catch is excellent in this area," a fisherman and Vaishali's husband Rajesh Mangale said."Industrial pollution has destroyed marine ecology in coastal areas, but these demolitions have put our lives and livelihood at stake. The bulldozers demolished our homes and our future." said Osman Gani of the National Fishworkers Forum.Fishermen and traders from coastal districts like Valsad, Jamnagar, Dwarka, and Amreli operate from Jakhau as industrialisation and chemical pollution along the coastline in their areas destroyed marine ecology, leading to depletion in fish stock.The Jakhau harbour provides livelihood to 10,000 fishermen and 12,000 fish traders, Mr Gani said. Around 1,500 fishing boats and trawlers also operate in the area every year, he added."The entire trade was stopped for nearly a month, leading to a loss of Rs 200 crore. In winter, the fishing business is generally on a decline. We are yet to come out of our losses, and the government is asking us to vacate the area. If we leave this area, we will be completely out of business, and families will starve," Jakhau Bandar Fishermen and Boat Association president Abdullah Shah said.Since the demolitions, fishermen and traders have set up makeshift homes and makeshift cold storages with tarpaulins and bamboo roofs and are determined not to leave the area until the government offers a suitable alternative arrangement.Mr Gani did not favour the move to set up a fishermen's colony two kilometres from the coastline, saying it was impractical. "Taking fishermen and traders two km from the coastline is like taking fish out of water and killing them. This proposition is impractical and will lead to huge losses for the fishing industry," he said.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comKutch district Congress president Yajuvendra Sinh Jadeja alleged that the government failed to protect the interests of fishermen due to petty politics. "The government should have made alternative arrangements for the fishermen and traders,"he said. (This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)Featured Video Of The DayHow To Track FIFA World Cup
"There is no mass leader among them, while I am drawing support in every part of the state," he said.Khambhalia (Gujarat): With the BJP building its campaign around Prime Minister Narendra Modi, AAP's chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi on Saturday said this shows how people of Gujarat are fed-up with the ruling party's state leaders and claimed his party is on course to end its uninterrupted reign of nearly 25 years.In an interview with PTI, the journalist-turned-politician asserted that the people of Gujarat will vote for a credible leader as their next Chief Minister in the assembly polls in which, he noted, PM Modi will not be a factor in their mind."Modi is Prime Minister, and he will remain in power at the Centre till 2024. The assembly polls are for electing the state government. People of Gujarat are fed up with state leaders of the BJP and the Congress. There is no mass leader among them, while I am drawing support in every part of the state," he said.While some poll watchers believe that 40-year-old Mr Gadhvi, once a popular Gujarati news anchor, has been caught in a tough fight in Khambhalia and social equations are also not very favourable to him, he said the AAP's poll entry has meant that conventional calculations will not work in either his constituency or in Gujarat.Though he is seen as a decent person with public connect, owed in some parts to his TV background, some critics have also described his party as a "general without soldiers", a pointer to the suggestion that it may lack the ground network to match the well-entrenched poll machinery of its rivals, especially the BJP, despite having a visible leadership.Mr Gadhvi, though, was quick to dismiss any such suggestions and cited figures to back his claim of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) emerging as a credible challenger to the BJP in the state.He claimed that the AAP has established its committees of 11-15 persons in each of the nearly 52,000 booths in the state and over 50 lakh voters have physically collected "guarantees" (manifesto) his party has promised to deliver if elected to power."We do not believe in the old pattern of politics practised by the BJP and the Congress, in which panchayat members and local caste leaders were co-opted by them during the polls to collect votes. Ground workers are with us and so are people. It will be reflected in the poll results on December 8," he said.In terms of the current popular vote share estimate, the AAP is ahead of the BJP while the Congress is far behind, Mr Gadhvi claimed.Mr Gadhvi, who comes from Other Backward Classes (OBC), described himself as the "son of a farmer" and said the AAP's three promises of "bijli, pani and daam" (power, water and remunerative prices for produce) have won it the support of the agrarian community.While farmers are generally supplied electricity in the night for irrigation purposes, the AAP has promised it during the daytime.Mr Gadhvi said the party's promises of free power to people besides filling up government jobs which, he said, are around two lakh, and boosting education and health sectors as its leader Arvind Kejriwal has "done" in Delhi besides monthly allowances to women and unemployed youth have struck a chord with people.While the BJP ran a "corrupt" government in Gujarat, the Congress, he alleged, failed in its role as an opposition by not raising the issues of people effectively.The AAP has sparked hope among the people of the state, and they will give it a chance to rule the state, he claimed.Mr Gadhvi's assembly seat Khambhalia falls in the Saurashtra region, which will go to polls in the first phase on December 1 along with south Gujarat and Kutch.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comThe rest of the parts of the state will vote on December 5 and counting will take place on December 8.(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)Featured Video Of The Day"Some Said Our Country Wouldn't Survive, But...": PM Modi At Constitution Day Event
The assembly election in Gujarat is likely to shape the future course of Indian politics: It is going to test the Congress’s resolve towards electoral revival, show whether the Aam Aadmi Party’s attempt to expand its footprint is yielding results and whether Brand Modi and Hindutva remain valuable electoral capital for the BJP. Of course, caste-based social engineering is all too prevalent in Gujarat. However, there are a set of factors related to emotional connections that play an important role in influencing election outcomes.The first such factor is “Brand Modi”. The image of PM Modi is synonymous with Gujarati pride. His presence as the prime minister has created a sub-nationalist assertion within the broader framework of Indian nationalism in Gujarat. This emotional thread is going to shape the election outcome more than any organisational or party-centred efforts. The image of Modi is omnipresent — in the media, in rallies, and imprinted on development initiatives promoted by the Centre. It is talked about in the tribal areas of the Dangs as well as in cosmopolitan cities including Ahmedabad and Vadodara. The narrative around Brand Modi has been contested by the Opposition, of course, but it hardly figures in the conversation or does not seem powerful enough to dent the electoral capital it has generated.A second factor is the “Hindutva aspiration” that provides an emotional basis for political connection. The BJP’s efforts to enhance Hindu pride by constructing the Ram temple in Ayodhya, renovation of the Kashi-Vishwanath temple corridor, and other mega symbols of Hindutva pride have a resonance on the ground. The BJP’s ability to do cultural politics is unmatched; its impact in reshaping hearts and minds is often ignored by political analysts. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal seems to have recognised the import of this aspect, which is evident in his attempts to carve out a niche within this space by demanding that currency notes carry images of Hindu deities, Lakshmi and Ganesha. However, for cultural politics around Hindutva symbols to work, mere hyperbolic assertions are not enough; continuous and deep groundwork is needed for the claims and slogans to sound authentic.A third invisible factor is the political kinship within the cooperative movement. Politics and the cooperative movement were always connected. However, the BJP has now replaced the Congress as the dominant player in the cooperative movement, which provides cadres and influencers to political parties. The BJP rose in Gujarat by weakening the Congress’s influence among the cooperatives. As the Union minister for cooperatives, Amit Shah has been engaging with producers, the market and mandi.A fourth factor that is enabling electoral mobilisations is linked to aspirations — one related to development and the other to dhanda (business). All political parties compete to tap these aspirations but the BJP, by projecting itself as the party of government through its rhetoric on “double-engine”, has been way ahead of its rivals. The AAP is an opening for newcomers interested in a political career — most civil society activists see their political future in it. In fact, civil society actors are helping the AAP build the party organisation. The BJP and Hindutva groups too have made deep inroads among NGOs and sewabhavi groups. Interestingly, the AAP seems to be winning over Congress sympathisers. Earlier, the impression was that the rise of AAP would hurt the BJP.A strong party organisation is necessary to mobilise people around these factors. The BJP political machine is more powerful and efficient than any other. It is good at pooling resources and using all the inputs at its disposal to maximise outcomes. A good mix of seasoned organisers and mass leaders run the party election machine and the campaign. In contrast, the AAP campaign is focused on Arvind Kejriwal while the Congress campaign revolves around state leaders. The absence of Rahul Gandhi in the campaign is mentioned by Congress cadres and sympathisers. The BJP has sought to diminish the anti-incumbency sentiment by replacing a large number of sitting MLAs, including senior leaders.However, elections have a logic of their own and are prone to throw up small and big surprises. In Gujarat, what factors influence the outcome are worth watching.The writer is professor, Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad
These Gujarat politicians have been victorious not merely in elections, but also in earning the confidence of generations of voters. Himanshu Kaushik profiles leaders who have won more than three assembly polls since the state was carved out over 60 years ago. Mohansinh Rathava (10):This septuagenarian tribal strongman won his first assembly election in 1972. He represented the ST-reserved Jetpur and Chhota Udepur seats for 10 consecutive elections on Congress tickets. Earlier this month he joined the BJP. His son Rajendrasinh has received the BJP ticket for the 2022 poll. Rathava’s record of 10 assembly-election wins is unsurpassed. (Won: 1972, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 1998, 2007, 2012, 2017) Ashok Bhatt (8):Ashok Bhatt, who held key positions in successive BJP governments, won polls eight times from his citadel, Khadia in Ahmedabad’s old city. His first victory came in 1975 and he handled several portfolios through his career. In 2008, he was appointed the assembly speaker and held that post till his death in 2010. His son Bhushan lacks Bhatt’s Midas touch, losing once from Khadia. (Won: 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007) Stalwarts with 7 winsChhotu Vasava:A fiery leader of the Bhil tribal community, Vasava, 77, is looking for his eighth straight win from the Jhagadia seat in Bharuch district, which he has represented from 1990 either on a JD or BTP ticket. Vasava has been a fierce advocate of rights of tribal communities and his fief has remained unbreachable for over three decades. (Won: 1990, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017) Pabubha Manek:This 66-year-old Mer community strongman is perhaps the only MLA to have won the Dwarka constituency as Congress, BJP, and independent candidate. He is seeking his eighth consecutive stint from the same seat. He was disqualified in 2019 by the HC for improper election affidavit. (Won: 1990, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017) Amarsinh Chaudhary:Gujarat’s first adivasi CM, Chaudhary headed the state government between 1985 and 1989. He quit a government job to win his first assembly election in 1970. He represented Radhanpur, Khedbrahma, and Vyara seats. Chaudhary also led the state unit of the Congress. He died in 2004. His son Tushar has been fielded from Khedbrahma by the Congress. (Won: 1972, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1995, 1998, 2002) Keshubhai Patel:The Patidar leader from Saurashtra won seven elections beginning 1975. His victories came on the tickets of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and the BJP, as well as on that of the Gujarat Parivartan Party which he founded in 2012. A member of the RSS since the 1940s. Patel was instrumental in the growth of the BJP in Gujarat. He was the CM twice. He succumbed to Covid complications at 92. (Won: 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 1998, 2012) Vajubhai Vala:He was made the Rajkot mayor in the 1980s. He won his first assembly election in 1985 from Rajkot and never lost. He vacated the seat in 2002 to pave the way for Narendra Modi to contest his first assembly election. Vala, 75, has been a minister and the speaker. He was made Karnataka’s governor in 2014. (Won: 1985, 1990, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012) Victory streak over 6 pollsMadhavsinh Solanki:He ran the KHAM (Kshatriya Harijan Adivasi Muslim) social experiment in the state. He has been the CM and a central minister. His 1985 feat of leading the Congress to win 149 of the 182 seats remains unbroken. (Won: 1962, 1972, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990) Vitthal Radadiya:He won assembly polls six times and general elections twice. He represented Dhoraji in the assembly and Porbandar in the Lok Sabha. He moved from the BJP to the RJP to the Congress and again to the BJP. He died in 2019 of cancer. (Won: 1990, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012) Nitin Patel:He has been winning assembly elections since 1995 and has been a sixterm MLA. He has held several positions in successive BJP governments, including the post of deputy CM under Vijay Rupani. (Won: 1990, 1995, 1998, 2007, 2012, 2017) Mangubhai Patel:Beginning 1990, the tribal leader from south Gujarat won six consecutive assembly elections. While he won five times from Navsari, he entered the assembly for the sixth time from Gandevi. Patel held several portfolios in BJP governments and was the speaker too. He is now the MP governor. (Won: 1990, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012) Madhu Shrivastava:He is contesting as an independent candidate this time after being denied a ticket by the BJP. He has a sizable personal following in Vadodara and the surrounding areas and has been winning since 1995. Shrivastava’s combative style often ignites controversies, but has resulted in no major setback. (Won: 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017) Prevailing in 5 fightsAmit Shah:Union home minister Amit Shah has been camping in Gujarat for the past several weeks to oversee the BJP’s poll campaign. Born in Mumbai in 1964, he spent his childhood in his ancestral town of Mansa. He has been elected to the assembly from Sarkhej and Naranpura. He contested his first Lok Sabha election in 2019 from the prestigious Gandhinagar constituency. (Won: 1997 bypoll, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012) Chimanbhai Patel:He was the CM of both Congress and Janata Dal governments in different tenures. He is credited with successfully engineering the Kokam (Koli Kanbi Musim) social experiment to ride into power. Patel won assembly elections from Sankheda and Unjha. He died in 1994. (Won: 1967, 1972, 1980, 1985, 1990) Nimaben Acharya:Barring the 1998 assembly election, Acharya has won all her fights since 1995. A Kutch native, she has been a successful candidate for both the Congress and the BJP. She and her husband switched over from the Congress to the BJP in 2007. Acharya became the first woman speaker in September last year. She has not received the BJP ticket this time. (Won: 1995, 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017) Champions 4 timesNarendra Modi:He contested his first election in February 2002 from Rajkot-II after being sworn in as the CM in October 2001. He won 2002, 2007, and 2012 assembly polls from Maninagar. His 14-year tenure as the CM is the longest in Gujarat. In 2014, he won Varanasi and Vadodara Lok Sabha seats and became the PM. In the 2019 general election, Varanasi reelected him. (Won: 2002 bypoll, 2002, 2007 and 2012) Anandiben Patel:She is the governor of Uttar Pradesh. She has won four assembly elections from Mandal, Patan, and Ghatlodia seats. She became the state’s first woman CM after Modi became the PM. She was replaced in the face of the Patidar reservation agitation. (Won: 1998, 2002, 2007, 2012)
The AIMIM will field 14 candidates in the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls.New Delhi: Soon after Union Home Minister Amit Shah at a Gujarat election rally made his controversial "taught a lesson to rioters in 2002" comment, All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi lashed out at him, saying his 'lessons' were in fact about letting criminals walk free.While addressing a public gathering at Juhapura, the largest Muslim neighbourhood in Gujarat, the AIMIM chief said, "Amit Shah today gave a statement during a public rally that they taught a lesson to the rioters of Gujarat in 2002 and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) established permanent peace in the state. I want to tell the MP of this (Ahmedabad) constituency, Amit Shah, that the lesson you taught in 2002 was that Bilkis' rapists will be freed by you. The lesson you taught was that you will free the murderers of Bilkis' three-year-old daughter. You also taught us that Ahsan Jafri can be killed."In an impassioned speech, he also referred to the Gulbarg Society massacre, and the burning down of the Best Bakery in the 2002 communal frenzy that claimed over a thousand lives."How many of your lessons should we remember, Mr Amit Shah? But remember, teaching lessons is nothing, peace is strengthened when the wronged are given justice," he said.2002 mein Kaunsa sabaq sikhaya tha @amitshah? Naroda Patiya ka sabaq? Gulberg ka sabaq? Best Bakery ka sabaq? Bilqis Bano ka sabaq? pic.twitter.com/aV3hWC2Ab4— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) November 25, 2022Taking aim at the Home Minister, Mr Owaisi said that people forget when they get power that it has never always been with anyone. "Power will never be with any one person. One day, power will be snatched from everyone. Drunk on power, the Home Minister is today saying that we taught a lesson. What lesson did you teach? You became notorious in the entire country. What lesson did you teach that there were communal riots in Delhi?" he said.Amit Shah had on Thursday said that those responsible for the communal riots in Gujarat were "taught such a lesson" that the state has been peaceful for 22 years."During the Congress rule in Gujarat (before 1995), communal riots were rampant. Congress used to incite people of different communities and castes to fight against each other. Through such riots, Congress had strengthened its vote bank and did injustice to a large section of the society," Mr Shah said in Mahudha town of Kheda district."There have been many riots in Bharuch, curfew, violence. There was no room for development in Gujarat because of the chaos. In 2002, they tried to indulge in communal violence... we taught them such a lesson, we put them in jail. It's been 22 years, we have not put a curfew even once. BJP has done the work to bring the peace to a land that saw frequent communal riots," he said.The AIMIM will field 14 candidates in the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comThe Gujarat assembly elections are scheduled to be held in two phases on December 1 and 5.Voting for 89 assembly seats will take place in the first phase, while for the remaining 93 assembly seats, voting will be held in the second phase of polling.
AHMEDABAD: Union home minister Amit Shah has claimed that BJP will win the coming Gujarat elections by a record margin, surpassing its previous best performances - both in terms of seats and vote share. "We shall break all our past records and and return to office once again with a thumping majority," Shah said. In an exclusive conversation with TOI here, Shah identified PM Narendra Modi's popularity and performance of the BJP governments as the main reasons for his confidence. He said while Modi enjoys goodwill everywhere, people of Gujarat share a special bond with him and that has grown stronger because of his performance as the PM. Battle of Gujarat is between Congress and BJP, says Amit ShahRead Also‘Gujarat’s bond with Modi has grown stronger because of his work… will help BJP win again’Union home minister Amit Shah, who has been campaigning extensively in Gujarat, is confident that the performance of successive BJP governments in the state and the growing affection for Prime Minister Narendra Modi will help BJP score an easy win there. In an exclusive conversation with TOI’sThe home minister dismissed the risk of "anti-incumbency" hurting BJP, which has been in office in Gujarat for 27 years now. "Our track record speaks for itself," he said, adding "pro-incumbency" is the dominant sentiment in the state. He noted that many issues BJP has raised since its Jan Sangh days have been resolved by the Modi government. Making light of AAP's challenge, Shah said BJP's fight in the Gujarat polls was still with Congress, which despite its problems consistently held on to a sizeable vote share in the state. The home minister was confident that AAP's 'politics of freebies' would not wash with Gujarat voters.
AHMEDABAD: Union home minister Amit Shah has claimed that BJP will win the coming Gujarat elections by a record margin, surpassing its previous best performances - both in terms of seats and vote share. "We shall break all our past records and and return to office once again with a thumping majority," Shah said. In an exclusive conversation with TOI in Ahmedabad, Shah identified PM Narendra Modi's popularity and performance of the BJP governments as the main reasons for his confidence. He said while Modi enjoys goodwill everywhere, people in Gujarat share a special bond with him and that has grown stronger because of his performance as the PM. The home minister dismissed the risk of "anti-incumbency" hurting BJP, which has been in office in Gujarat for 27 years now. "Our track record speaks for itself," he said, adding "pro-incumbency" is the dominant sentiment in the state. He noted that many issues BJP has raised since its Jan Sangh days have been resolved by the Modi government. Making light of AAP's challenge, Shah said BJP's fight in the Gujarat polls was still with Congress, which despite its problems has consistently held on to a sizeable vote-share in the state. The home minister was confident that AAP's 'politics of freebies' would not wash with Gujarat voters.
Questioning the “repeated trips” made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to Gujarat, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said he had never seen such high anti-incumbency, as seen in the poll-bound state.Addressing an election meeting in Ahmedabad, the “Prime Minister has left all work in Delhi — which is his main job — and is here in Gujarat. What is the need for him to make repeated trips. Both Prime Minister and (home minister) Amit Shah are camping in the state.”Gehlot was speaking at Dariapur in Ahmedabad where sitting MLA Gyasuddin Sheikh is contesting.“You all are seeing what they are talking about in their speeches,” he said adding that unemployment and inflation were adversely affecting people in Gujarat. “I have never seen such high anti-incumbency, as I am seeing now in Gujarat. People are opposing them. They are not going to their meetings, because they have not done any work in the last five years,” the Rajasthan CM said adding that the BJP was forced to change its entire Cabinet last year.The Rajasthan CM said the anti-incumbency wave is bigger than 2017 elections, when congress fell a few seats short of forming the government in Gujarat. “If Congress wins this election, the Centre and Modji will get a shock. They will realise that they have lost due to high inflation and they will take steps to reduce prices. The entire country will benefit,” Gehlot said.“In Gujarat, Congress MLAs win. Thereafter horse trading happens and they are taken into BJP. This never used to happen earlier. After Modiji became the prime minister, a new model has come in the country, where elected governments are made to fall— Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka. These are dangers for democracy,” he said. Gehlot pointed out how sitting MLAs have rebelled within the BJP. “They blame the Congress, but they are not able to keep their own house in order.”Gehlot also remembered those who died of hooch tragedy in Ahmedabad and the recent bridge collapse tragedy in Morbi.
The forthcoming Gujarat Assembly polls is set to see many key contests, but the one for minority votes is rather tepid, with major political parties circumspect about fielding Muslim candidates, as always. The Muslim community, which forms approximately nine per cent of the total population of Gujarat, says in one voice that it is “unexcited” about the polls, as “none of the parties” has ever lived up to their pre-poll promises or reached out to the community.This time, across the 182 constituencies, the Congress has fielded only six Muslim candidates — a figure it has not crossed since 2002. The BJP — which even has a Christian candidate in the fray after two decades, from the Vyara constituency — last fielded a Muslim candidate in 1998 from the Vagra Assembly seat, unsuccessfully. The new entrant, Aam Aadmi Party, has fielded three Muslims, while the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has fielded 11 Muslim candidates out of a total 13 nominations. There are, of course, several Independent candidates from the community, who are expected to dent the vote share primarily of the Congress party.The Muslim votebank, traditionally associated with the Congress, has seen diminishing importance in the Assembly polls in Gujarat, and thereby, also a disproportionate lack of representation in the Assembly. In 2017, three of the six candidates fielded by the Congress made it to the Gujarat Assembly, while only two out of five were elected in 2012. The Congress, which had fielded 10 Muslim candidates in 1995, has slowly distanced itself from issues pertaining to minorities, barring their elected representatives from the community, who continue to be vocal in registering their opposition to issues that matter to the community.A senior Congress leader says, “One cannot deny that in the current political scenario, the Congress has to counter the BJP’s Hindutva politics, which includes them calling the Congress an anti-Hindu party. It is natural that the party has become conscious and prudent about its image.”He adds, “Not fielding Muslim candidates is not a part of this conscious image change, though. Right from 1990, the winnability of Muslim candidates came up for question. In fact, in 1995, all 10 Muslim candidates of the Congress lost. In 1998, five of our nine candidates won. So, in 2002, only the winners were repeated…”Earlier this year, Congress had elevated Wankaner MLA Mohammad Pirzada as the working president of the party’s Gujarat unit, while Congress president Jagdish Thakor reached out to the minorities with a Congress catchphrase that the party believed in the minorities having the first right over the country’s resources.The AAP, which has also held a roadshow in minority areas of Ahmedabad, has fielded three Muslim candidates, but for the community, the “connection” is missing.A community leader from Godhra says, “No political leader tried to meet Bilkis Bano to just extend moral support or guidance after the remission was granted to her 11 convicted rapists. None of the non-Muslim leaders of any party spoke against the recent Undhela flogging controversy. Being associated with Muslim issues would dent their own political narratives that have been prepared to counter the BJP’s Hindutva card. In fact, even in pockets with the highest Muslim population, candidates need votes of the Hindus to win, and for parties, the calculations are based on cutting their losses.”Socio-political activist Zuber Gopalani says Muslim voters feel “no enthusiasm” ahead of the Assembly polls as political parties increasingly appear to mimic each other. He says, “The community is undecided this time… Initially, AAP’s entry had raised hopes of an alternative, but frankly, Arvind Kejriwal’s emphasis on religious symbolism and religion-laced comments have left Muslims confused. So, at this moment, we have the BJP that is riding on Hindutva and AAP, which appears to be its shadow, with Kejriwal making covert references to (the Hindu) religion, such as demanding pictures of Hindu gods on currency notes. And there is the Congress, which is nowhere to be seen, nor has it done anything substantial to endear itself to the minorities. In fact, everybody knows that their leaders jump to the BJP at the first available opportunity.”An activist from Godhra, requesting anonymity, says the Muslim community, which has largely stood by sitting five-term MLA C K Raulji, has “lost faith” in him, after the remission to the Bilkis convicts. Raulji was part of the Jail Advisory Committee (JAC) that recommended the release. The activist says, “When C K Raulji joined the BJP in 2017, his winning margin fell to just 258 votes. It is because he betrayed the faith that Muslims had placed in him, not only by joining the BJP, but by also making acerbic statements… Now, after being part of a panel that granted the remission, he has even made statements in which he has invoked the caste of the convicts to defend them. That’s his mindset.”For BJP leaders, not fielding Muslim candidates is a “non-issue”. A senior BJP leader said, “According to the party ideology, we work for all communities. Anyone can approach government leaders at any time. The party does not feel the need to field Muslim candidates as appeasement is not part of PM Narendra Modi’s agenda — we have been saying this even in our campaign. Where we have support from the Muslim community, voters vote for development and not for a candidate belonging to their religion.”According to Gopalani, while the AAP promises of schools and healthcare is attractive, their party is “too new”. He says, “We are yet to see how well they can carry forward good governance in the years ahead, especially education and healthcare, as the AAP is now venturing into unchartered territories. The promises are attractive but that cannot be the sole reason to choose them, although, one cannot deny that some voters might be attracted to vote for AAP, thereby denting the Congress numbers.”The absence of strong Muslim political leaders in the state is hurting the community. Gopalani, a close aide of Ahmed Patel, says, “The community is especially angered by the Congress because it has actively pitted strong community leaders against each other and divided the voices that would otherwise come out in unison… One would think that the presence of more parties and candidates offers a choice, but it’s actually detrimental, as it would completely dilute the minority votes and make them ineffective. There is a dearth of powerful Muslim leaders, who could assure someone seeking justice, and also deliver on the assurance using their legislative clout, especially after the departure of Congress leader Ahmed Patel… The community feels this political void. There is no face, no name, and no person to turn to in a crisis, and this is true for all parties. Forget representation in the Assembly, minority leaders — be it Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or from any other religion — were not even part of the recent function to release the Congress manifesto.”The AIMIM, which has been pitching itself as defenders of Muslims and Dalits in this Assembly election — even adopting the slogan of ‘Jai Bheem, Jai Meem’ — has 11 Muslims and two Dalits in the fray. In AIMIM’s campaigns, chief Asaduddin Owaisi and his Gujarat head Sabir Kabliwala have been invoking the Bilkis Bano remission, political neglect of Zakia Jafri, Uniform Civil Code, and the Disturbed Areas Act. But, the party has steadily lost elected representatives since their much-hyped victories in the local civic body elections in February 2021. Those who have quit the party blame a lack of transparency and indecisiveness of the Gujarat leadership. Additionally, some within the party-fold also opine that merely focusing on Muslim or Dalit issues does not tend to work out on the ground.For Muslims, AIMIM also does not have an unique appeal. “The party has no understanding of local issues. Some might vote for their candidates purely on religious grounds, but it lacks the stability and presence to make an impact… Currently, the Muslim voter is waiting for that elusive leader from the community in the state, who is nowhere in sight,” the activist adds.
The postal voting for government employees on election duty in Ahmedabad, which includes the personnel of the Gujarat police, home guards and others, will be held on November 25 and 26.The polling will be held from 9 am to 5 pm on both days. In Ahmedabad district, arrangements have been made at police headquarters Shahibaug for the city police. Similar facilities have also been created at Krushnagar.For rural police in the district, facilities have been created at Makarba, Dholka and Viramgam.Meanwhile, a day before the postal voting, Isudan Gadhvi, the chief ministerial candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), took to Twitter to remind the state government employees about the party’s promises, including bringing back the old pension scheme, increasing the pay grade of various government workers and regularisation of various temporary and outsourced workers.
Gujarat has been the BJP's stronghold for nearly three decades. (Representational)Ahmedabad: The mass suspension of rebels in Gujarat -- the BJP's stronghold for nearly three decades -- has failed to contain the trouble a week ahead of the assembly election. Late this evening, another leader resigned from the party. Bhanu Bhai Chauhan -- BJP vice-president of Jamnagar district and a leader of the Other Backward Castes -- is alleging that the party is ignoring the demands of community.So far, the BJP has penalised 19 MLAs. The list includes a six-time MLA and two former MLAs. All have got six-year suspensions from primary membership of the party.The mass uprising started after the BJP refused tickets to nearly one-third of its MLAs.While the party routinely evaluates its MLAs and gives tickets on basis on performance, this time it is under pressure to find seats for multiple Congress leaders who have changed camp.But with many of the rebels filing nomination as Independents, the BJP candidates will face them in at least 10 per cent of the 182 seats. Many of the rebels are contesting from their own constituency -- areas they have dominated for several terms. In some sections of the party there is concern that this may lead to a further paring down of the party's numbers. Over the last years, the BJP numbers have been steadily shrinking. From 137 in 2002, the party is now down to 99 MLAs in the 182-member assembly.For the party, this is a huge embarrassment, with Gujarat being the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home minister Amit Shah. Many are complacent though. They argue that the entry of Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party and Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM will cut into the votes of the Congress, which had always been the principal opposition party in the state. Even though Mr Kejriwal has pitched himself as the BJP's chief rival, AAP had failed to open account in the last election, point out BJP leaders. PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comThose suspended over the last two days include Vaghodia MLA, Madhu Shrivastav, known as a strongman with a rap sheet that includes a case linked to the 2002 riots. Besides, some key leaders of the party have resigned. Among them are former ministers Prabhatsinh Chauhan and Jaynarayan Vyas and several district-level office bearers. Mr Chauhan has joined Congress. So has former Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela's son and former MLA, Mahendrasinh Vaghela.Featured Video Of The DayCongress's Bharat Jodo Yatra vs BJP's March For Tribals In Madhya Pradesh
The community has around 60 lakh eligible voters.Ahmedabad: A top body representing the Maldhari community, who are involved in cattle-rearing in Gujarat, has urged its members to vote against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the next month's state Assembly elections for "failing" to fulfil their long-pending demands.The call was given by the Gujarat Maldhari Mahapanchayat two days ago. Of the nearly 70 lakh members of the community living in parts of Gujarat, around 60 lakh are eligible voters, said Nagji Desai, spokesperson of Maldhari Mahapanchayat."Maldharis across Gujarat are being harassed for the last one-and-a-half years and many cases were also filed against them. Many of our long-pending demands are still unfulfilled under the BJP rule. To teach that party a lesson, the panchayat appeals to our community to vote against BJP this time," Mr Desai said.He was referring to the cases lodged in different cities against Maldharis for letting their cattle roam on roads, which led to accidents and even deaths of commuters.In a statement, Mr Desai also thanked the Congress and its state unit president Jagdish Thakor for supporting the community.Some of the main demands, which were not fulfilled yet, include building exclusive localities for Maldharis to live and keep their cattle to avoid accidents, withdrawing cases against the community and giving status of a farmer to cattle-rearers."Election is the right time to show our might and make our voice heard. After holding consultation with senior community members, the Mahapanchayat gives this call of voting against BJP candidates. If the party's candidate is a Maldhari, then voters are free to choose whom to vote for," said Mr Desai.Voting for 182 seats of Gujarat Assembly will be held in two phases - on December 1 and 5.The Gujarat BJP has not issued any statement in connection with the Maldhari community's call against it.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comMaldharis in Gujarat are up in arms against the BJP ever since the party-led government, brought a bill in April that was aimed at stopping the movement of stray cattle on roads in urban areas. The bill had proposed strict punishment for those found guilty of letting their cattle roam on roads.The Gujarat High Court had criticised the government over the stray cattle menace in the city and asked it to take corrective measures to resolve the issue. However, following a state-wide protest by the Maldhari community, the bill was finally withdrawn in September after Governor Acharya Devvrat returned it for reconsideration.Featured Video Of The DayHave Rahul Gandhi's Looks Become A Poll Issue?
The BJP controls zilla and taluka panchayats and gram panchayats in VaghodiaVaghodia (Gujarat): Two BJP rebels, both pledging to back it if they win and both contesting as independents, are going head to head in this assembly segment, their very support queering the pitch for the ruling party's official candidate.That six-time BJP legislator Madhu Shrivastav, who was replaced by the party's Vadodara district president Ashwin Patel, is one of them makes the saffron party's road to victory in this keenly watched constituency a steeper uphill trudge.Against Shrivastav, whose exclusion from the BJP's electoral fray was a surprise for many, is Dharmendra Sinh Vaghela. In more similarities, the two former party colleagues and opponents have the image of being 'dabangs' (fearless) and 'bahubalis' (strongmen) in the constituency.Though the BJP has put all its might behind its official candidate Patel, the prospect of a vote split is real. The relatively low profile Patel will be fighting the two party rebels and candidates of the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in a multi-cornered contest on December 5 in the second phase of the elections."The BJP is more important than the candidate and we are focussing on ensuring the victory of the official candidate," Utsavbhai Parikh, general secretary of the BJP Kisan Morcha in Vadodara, told PTI.Confident of victory, he said of the 65 per cent Kshatriya voters in Vaghodia, 50 per cent are committed BJP voters."We will suffer 10 to 15 per cent (loss) in terms of votes due to the presence of the rebels. But we are confident of winning," Parikh said.The BJP has also inducted Yogpal Singh Gohil, a well connected Kshatriya leader from the Congress and son of former party legislator Upendra Singh Gohil.In 2017, Madhubhai, as Shrivastav is called in the constituency, defeated Vaghela, known as Bapu, by 10,315 votes. Vaghela then too was a BJP rebel.Five years ago, the Congress did not field a candidate from here and left the seat for the Bharatiya Tribal party (BTP) with whom it had an alliance.Vaghela benefited as a majority of the Kshatriya voters, a deciding factor in Vaghodia, went to him due to the Congress' absence from the poll arena.This time might be different.Shrivastav, who has won six times since 1995, and Vaghela have said they will be with the BJP if they win.The BJP controls zilla and taluka panchayats and gram panchayats in Vaghodia and its leaders say the party's grassroots strength is enough to see it through the hustings.The Congress, on its part, appears upbeat and is hoping to derive maximum advantage from the fractured poll situation.Satyajit Gaikwad, the party's candidate and former MP from Vadodara, said Madhu Shrivastav polled 60,000 votes in 2017 but 1.10 lakh ballots went against him.'The Congress will cash in on the split in BJP votes and the AAP will get just around 1,500 votes this time,' he claimed.The sense on the ground, he said, is that the constituency wants a change this time. The presence of the two rebels will hit the BJP more in his view."Household incomes have depleted, unemployment is on the rise and the pinch of inflation is too much for the people to bear. This angst of the people will be reflected through the ballot," Gaikwad said.Deepak Shrivastav, Madhu Shrivastav's son and a two-time member of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, said his father is a "people's man" and is sure to emerge victorious for the seventh time."(Poll) symbol doesn't matter, people's work and their welfare is important for him and he will continue to do so. He stood as an independent because people wanted him to contest and they have assured him a win. They are angry as the BJP has not re-nominated him," he said.Madhu Shrivastav's supporters point out that Vaghodia was a Congress bastion breached by him in 1995 when he contested as an independent and won.The BJP had then invited him to join the party. Since then, the veteran legislator has worked to expand the BJP base in the constituency, they said.Patel, a Shrivastav supporter said, is not widely known in Vaghodia, one of the Assembly segments of the Vadodara parliamentary seat and even lost the zilla panchayat election.The party also has to tackle the disillusionment of locals, many of whom cite persisting problems such as power outages and lack of infrastructure."This is a taluka place but even some villages in Gujarat are better developed than Vaghodia. We have the Parul University and Muni Seva Ashram Hospital as well as the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation here, but there are security issues as CCTVs don't function and frequent power cuts leave streets dark after sunset," said a shopkeeper in his early 30s, wary about giving his name.As the campaigning hots up, fruit vendors Shabbir and Sarfaraz Malik said the main fight will be between Patel and Madhu Shrivastav.Mitesh Patel, a member of Vaghela's campaign team, said his man is in a better position in the 2022 polls after losing by 10,000 votes in 2017."We are focusing on Kshatriya votes. Bapu has varied businesses in Vadodara and provides employment to locals. Many Kshatriya community members from the BJP Yuva Morcha and Mahila Morcha are joining Bapu,' he said.The AAP doesn't figure prominently in the electoral discourse in the constituency.Seven candidates are in the fray in Vaghodia, located on the outskirts of Vadodara city. It is an industrial belt and a semi-urban area.There are 2.46 lakh voters. The dominant social groups are the Kshatriyas, Patels and OBCs are dominant social groups. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Log Party are also contesting.About 60 per cent of the population in the constituency is into farming and 40 per cent in the industrial sector.Narayan Patel, Vaghodia taluka Congress president, said there is unrest among the poor over price rise and GST on basic items like milk and this will reflect in voting.There are 10 Assembly seats in Vadodara district - Vaghodia, Savli, Karjan, Padra, Dabhoi (all rural areas), Raopura, Sayajiganj, Majalpur, Akota and Vadodara City (all urban segments).PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comExcept Padra, all seats are with the BJP.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)Featured Video Of The DayOn Shraddha Walkar's 2020 Letter, BJP's "Appeasement" Charge In Maharashtra
From waving at villagers from the sunroof of her SUV to riding pillion at a motorbike rally, Congress MLA Geniben Thakor (46) has her own star value in the Bhabhar taluka of Vav Assembly constituency in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district.“I am in my pihar (maternal village) today,” Thakor says in the village of Mera on Thursday morning as a crowd of women, not interested in what the other leaders at the event had to say, suddenly stand up and rush to listen to what their “daughter and sister” had to say. The firebrand Congress MLA plays to the gallery and goes on to say, “Vote for your daughter. I do not need to give a bhashan (lecture) about the BJP or the Congress in Mera village. Either I win or lose but I am always with you in your happiness or sorrow. There is not a single family in the village I have not personally reached out to during the Covid pandemic.”“She is our daughter, the one who has made us proud,” says 80-year-old Chelaba Thakor, a villager who welcomed Geniben. Rekha Thakor, 15, a Class 9 dropout, remembers seeing Geniben a few months ago for the inauguration of the government high school.The MLA is lauded for being one the few vocal Congress legislators during Assembly sessions and for not shying away from raising her voice on women-related issues. She lost the 2012 election to Shankar Chaudhary of the BJP from Vav by more than 72,000 votes but defeated him five years later by a margin of over 6,600 votes. This time, Chaudhary has been shifted to the neighbouring Tharad Assembly constituency and the ruling party has fielded Swarupji Thakor.Geniben, who is contesting her fourth Assembly election, appeals to the villagers about ensuring that Thakor votes do not get divided. “When two candidates from the same community are contesting the election, be careful that the community (Thakor) votes do not get split. You might, under society or community pressure, agree to give five votes to one candidate and three to the other from the family. I am requesting you to not fall under this trap,” says the legislator.Village after village the Congress leader makes a similar appeal. “In 2012 too, the same thing happened. Chandulal (Thakkar) contested on an NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) ticket and was in the third position with over 30,000 votes. He did not win but wasted 20,000 votes from the community and 10,000 votes went to the BJP. If these votes had gone to me, I would not have lost,” says Geniben.Accusing the BJP of attempting to split Thakor votes, she adds, “The BJP had many leaders from our community but giving the mandate (to Swarupji Thakor) overnight is only for the sake of contesting the election. He has nothing to do with the BJP or elections but only to split votes.”Gujarat State Co-operative Agri and Rural Development Bank member Kesardan P Gadhvi, accompanying Geniben on her campaign trail in Bhabhar, joins in. “Let us support and make Geniben and Jagdish Thakor (Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee President) strong by standing with them. Let us not divide the community votes into two and show them that Thakors are not that fool,” he says.
Union home minister Amit Shah, who has been campaigning extensively in Gujarat, is confident that the performance of successive BJP governments in the state and the growing affection for Prime Minister Narendra Modi will help BJP score an easy win there. In an exclusive conversation with TOI’s Diwakar and Akhilesh Singh on the campaign trail, he dismissed AAP’s challenge as exaggerated, insisting that Congress continues to be the main challenger but is headed for yet another defeat. Excerpts:What is your assessment on the Gujarat elections?■ The BJP is on a very strong wicket. We shall break all our past records – be it the number of seats or vote percentage – and come to office once again with a thumping majority. You recorded your highest tally – 127 – and highest vote share – 49. 85% – in 2002, the first election fought under Narendra Modi as CM. You hope to surpass that after having been in office for 27 long years?■ Yes. BJP had expressed similar confidence the last time but things did not turn out that way. Congress gave you a real scare and your tally dropped to 99…■ The last polls were an aberration. They were held in the shadow of three intense caste-based movements backed by Congress, which had, working through NGOs it funded, stealthily prepared the background for two years for the campaigns to create divisions among castes. The trick worked in the immediate run and had an impact on elections. But the antagonism that was manufactured and introduced in Gujarat was alien to Gujarat’s ethos. People quickly saw through the divide-and-win game plan. As a result, we won all the 26 Lok Sabha seats just two years later. BJP has since won most of the elections in the state. We hold 90% of seats in local body polls. Today, the party is in office in all districts and all municipal corporations. This clearly shows that the impact of the divisive politics that Congress introduced has worn off. What happened in 2017 was an exception, it could never be the norm in Gujarat. What else has changed since 2017 to make you so confident?■ A lot of issues that BJP consistently raised since its Jana Sangh days in the 1950s, and which resonated with large sections in Gujarat, have been resolved by Narendra Modi’s government. The end of the special status for J&K, removal of Section 35A, construction of Ram Mandir, ban on triple talaq, and beginning of the process to enact a Uniform Civil Code by setting up a committee and initiatingtalks: all this has found huge traction with the voter here. There is also appreciation of the Modi government’s effective management of Covid-19. Administering 230 crore doses of vaccines is no small feat and this is acknowledged by the people. Then, we have also ensured food security for 80 crore people who had lost their jobs and means of livelihood during the two years of the pandemic. All this has positively impacted the voter in Gujarat. I have personally sensed this on the ground. Our economy is stronger today and we have jumped from 11th to 5th spot in the ranking of global economies. This has also created a favourable impact for the BJP in a state like Gujarat where commerce and industry matters a lot and which is home to a large number of MSMEs. Few will dispute your success in turning Gujarat into a laboratory of your ideology. PM Modi’s popularity is obviously a big factor, while BJP’s organisation here is a well-oiled machine. Your advantages are evident. But what about the fatigue factor and the inevitable yearning for change? It felled the once-powerful CPM government in West Bengal.■ Yes, change is inevitable. It is the way of life and nobody can stop it from happening. But a party can also evolve to accommodate the desire for change. BJP consistently innovates and adapts to accommodate the yearning for change. In fact, the party has very often been the trigger for change. We keep carrying out changes. This gives people the confidence that the party is alive to their aspirations. Why would they seek to change a government which keeps improvising and innovating to satisfy their changing needs? So, you claim the BJP, despite being in power for close to three decades, is still seen as a change agent?■ Yes. BJP is a living organism, it keeps changing. That is what every party needs to do in order to be relevant, in order to survive. Our foundational beliefs never change, but our manner of working keeps changing according to the needs of the people. Our governments also keep innovating and have carried out multi-dimensional and dynamic changes in order to be more effective. Did you drop Vijay Rupani for the same reason?■ No. After Narendrabhai, we have had three chief ministers in Gujarat. First was Anandiben. We have a rule in our party that a member can be a part of electoral politics until the age of 75. And, accordingly, Anandiben was relieved from her post when she was 74 years and 10 months old. She has now been tasked with a different responsibility. … Vijaybhai also completed his five years. Then came Bhupendrabhai. We are fighting elections under his leadership and he will continue as the CM after the polls. We don’t dump people. There is always uncertainty on whether BJP will continue with the incumbent after the polls. In some cases, you did not declare your choice before the polls while faces were projected in other instances. What has Bhupendra Patel, a first-term MLA, done in such a short time that BJP has decided to retain him in the job and the Narendra-Bhupendra combo is being projected as the double engine of growth?■ In the one to one-and-ahalf years that he has been in office, Bhupendrabhai has followed all the norms that Narendrabhai had set. He has speeded up Gujarat’s development while upholding the party’s ideology. The results of his work can already be seen; even at the grassroots level. Gujarat’s share in overall exports has risen to 30%. Among the states, it has the largest share of MSMEs and startups registered in the past one year. It has successfully implemented the ‘One nation, one ration card’ scheme. The soft-spoken CM has also displayed firmness in dealing with illegal encroachments. And, there has been no controversy about him. Would you agree that playing the challenger is easier? When you are the incumbent, you are forced to play defence.■ As I had told TOI at the time of the UP polls, antiincumbency is relative. It does not apply to all situations and is dependent on how you have performed in office. We have seen parties winning polls because of pro-incumbency sentiments that their performance generated. And with the type of governance we have provided in Gujarat – 24-hour electricity in every house, road connectivity, business investment, FDI, and high export volume – we have no reason to fear anti-incumbency. The term anti-incumbency was coined during Congress rule for its listless performance. However, under BJP, we have seen the emergence of the concept of ‘pro-incumbency’ and that is the dominant sentiment in Gujarat. Isn’t the Morbi disaster a blot on the state’s performance?■ It was a heart-wrenching tragedy. We all – from PM Narendra Modi to the grassroots BJP worker – feel very sad for the victims. However, we shouldn’t rush to a conclusion just because an election is underway. An administrative inquiry is going on. The high court has also taken cognisance and asked Gujarat Human Rights Commission to look into the matter. The Supreme Court is also cognisant and has shifted all petitions to the HC. Let us wait for the HC’s order. I can assure you that the Gujarat government will accept whatever decision the court takes. There is something puzzling about your campaign. Congress is seen as a reluctant warrior. Its senior leaders are not even campaigning. And yet PM Modi and you keep attacking Congress…■ What you said is true of Congress across the country. Congress has been adrift. It neither has issues nor leadership or a programme. It is a confused party. Yet, the fact remains that Congress has always had a base in Gujarat. Since 1990, they have got at least 30% vote share in every election. That’s why we cannot take them lightly in Gujarat. Our fight is with them. A consistent vote share of 30% translates into one-third of the electorate. Does this not reflect on your failure to win over sections of the society?■ There was a time when the entire country wasn’t with us. Now a large section of the population believes in our vision. We hope that those who are still not supporting us would come around after seeing our work. People say the ‘Gujarat model’ is just hype, a marketing trick: it has only glitter, no substance…■ You can’t see the substance if you have blinkers on. You will be able to see if you take off your goggles of biases and prejudices. What about the criticism that there has been excessive focus on highways and the industrial base, and the social sector has not got adequate attention?■ Another baseless criticism by those blinded by bias and who don’t care to even look at the figures. Gujarat is among the top three states on all parameters. Going back to 2017, the BJP performed poorly in tribal-dominated areas. Are you expecting an improvement this time?■ I am convinced we will do better. . . In every election, we have improved our vote share from tribal areas. And this time I am convinced that we will succeed. There is appreciation in those areas of the way we managed the pandemic; how we have expanded infrastructure and welfare benefits right to the doorsteps of individuals. I am sure people will acknowledge this. The alienation of Patels was another factor. Have they come back to the fold?■ As I said, after 2017 we’ve had two elections. One Lok Sabha, where all sections voted for us and we swept. We have also won the polls forlocal bodies. This could not have been possible without the support of all sections. Everyone has understood that what Congress did in the couple of years preceding 2017 was low-level politics which resulted in the disruption of mutual harmony. Is Hardik Patel’s coming to BJP a testament to this?■ It is not about an individual. It is about the masses… That explains everything. It is said that your principal rival is AAP and you are attacking Congress because you want to shore them up so that there is a split in anti-BJP votes.■ Every party has the right to fight an election. But if you look at Gujarat’s political history, it has largely been a bipolar polity and a third party has never been successful. Be it Chimanbhai Patel, Shankarsinh Vaghela, or Keshubhai Patel, Gujarat has always seen a two-party fight. I feel that the battle is between BJP and Congress. Congress has a lot of baggage and so it is easy for you to blunt their attack. AAP is a new player in Gujarat and is free of that handicap. Besides, a new player that also casts itself as an underdog has its own appeal. Do you agree?■ This is a never-ending debate. It seems you have made up your mind. I cannot convince you if you have already reached a conclusion and are looking for statements to fit that. Let us wait for the votes to be counted, doodh ka doodh aur paani ka paani ho jayega. AAP has unleashed a bagful of freebies. This has worked for them in Delhi and Punjab. Don’t you think this can have an impact in Gujarat as well?■ They made similar promises in Uttarakhand and in Uttar Pradesh; in Maharashtra too. People are not fools. Gujarat has a budget of Rs 2. 42 lakh crore and the cost of implementing the promises that have been made would come to Rs 3. 6 lakh crore. Do you really think that people cannot see through this? They are smart, trust me. Does your confidence have to do with the ethos of Gujarat which values industry and enterprise?■ I don’t want to get into a meandering debate on this. But the fact is that we have given every home in Gujaratelectricity, toilet and gas cylinder. We have given every poor home an Ayushman Bharat card with health coverage up to Rs 5 lakh. And we have also given free rations as help during Covid-19. As against this, people make promises which are unrealistic and can never be kept. Making promises is one thing but what is crucial for winning people’s trust is whether you keep them. Our track record speaks for itself. There are reports about dissension over distribution of BJP tickets. So much so that you had to camp here to firefight.■ This is not new. But I don’t call it firefighting. Reaching out to a party colleague who is unhappy is not firefighting. It is an act of solidarity and camaraderie for someone who has been with you for years. It is my duty to hear them and assuage their feelings. It takes about 20 years to build a dedicated party worker. If a few of them are unhappy that their claim was not heeded, then it is our duty to put a hand on their shoulder and share their grief. And this is what takes BJP ahead. Many people say that the perception about BJP being the overwhelming frontrunner has its flipside too. It will lead to complacency and low turnout.■ Our booth-level presence is the strongest in Gujarat and our workers maintain constant rapport with people. The people of Gujarat have always participated in elections. I am confident that we will have a good turnout as in all elections, and BJP will score a massive win. Then why give a ticket to Payal Kukrani, whose father was convicted in the Naroda Patia violence?■ But what’s wrong about this? She’s a well-educated young woman; a doctor. She has been a hard-working member of the party. True, her father was convicted and has served his sentence. But what has that got to with the daughter? Does she not have a life of her own? You have pronounced her guilty because she is someone’s daughter. But you would never criticise AAP or NCP for not removing their ministers even when they are behind bars. Isn’t it a case of double standards? You have campaigned extensively, what is the feature of this election that has struck you the most?■ The nation has witnessed good governance under Narendrabhai’s leadership in the last eight years. Narendrabhai’s leadership has won laurels and glory for the country. Simultaneously, BJP’s ideological commitments have also been fulfilled. This has had a very positive impact on the people. Modiji was always loved by the people. But I can seethat the affection for him has grown because of the way he has stabilised the economy and strengthened national security. This is true of the entire country. But people here share a special bond with him because he is from Gujarat. His popularity is at its peak and will help BJP score a record win. What is your assessment of Himachal Pradesh?■ We are coming to office with a thumping majority. Over the years, BJP has made many promises in its manifesto. Some of them have been fulfilled, but others, like the Uniform Civil Code, remain on paper. Even CAA is in limbo because the rules have not been framed.■ You are mistaken. CAA is now the law of the land. It has to be implemented and we will do that… We just have to formulate the rules which we could not do because of the pandemic. We shall start working on this, now that the Covid situation has eased. As far as UCC is concerned, it is not just a part of our manifesto since our inception, the Constituent Assembly also directed the legislatures to enact one at the appropriate time. We are alive to our commitment and the task assigned by the framers of the Constitution. Your decision to ban the PFI has led to a backlash of sorts. We have seen serious terror plots being sought to be executed in Coimbatore and Mangalore.■ All challenges to internal security need to be strongly dealt with. We need to proceed against all such dangers, and while we need to analyse all the factors involved, the fear of risks should not deter us from taking on the threat itself. PFI, in many states, had become a danger to our unity and diversity, and our internal security. We watched them push our youth towards terrorism. I believe that the decision to ban it was correct and was taken at the right time. And if there is going to be any reaction, we have all the means and the intent to quell that. What is your assessment of the situation in J&K? When can we expect assembly polls?■ The entire world knows J&K is in very good shape. So far, investments worth Rs 56,000 crore – the highestever – have been committed in the state. Some 30,000 sarpanches have been elected and are working on local body polls. The roots of democracy have spread and gone deeper. People belonging to the backward classes who had been denied benefits available to their counterparts in other states have now been availing of reservations. Women have got their rights. All languages of J&K have got due recognition. And, for the first time, the public is getting a taste of what development actually means. As far as elections are concerned, the Election Commission has finished delimitation, grievances have been redressed. Now, constituencies have been delineated. Electoral rolls, which were riddled with irregularities, are being checked. The EC will announce the dates once the exercise is over. Very often, the judiciary does not seem to be in sync with what the government considers to be imperative for national security.■ There have been such instances. In our Constitution, the roles and responsibilities of the legislature and the judiciary have been very clearly defined and demarcated. We are keeping a close watch on the developments. We shall see how things move. We hope that everyone, including the judiciary, works within their remit. You have been cast as someone who is trying to impose Hindi. Regional parties have attacked you for this. However, you have also argued for regional languages to be used as a medium of education, including for higher and technical courses. What exactly is your position?■ We have championed the use of all Indian languages since the time of Jana Sangh. I am of the firm opinion that we have been able to utilise only 5% of the country’s intellect and talent as a section considers English as the only suitable medium of education and this prevents large sections from accessing quality education and training. The argument that a child will not get good education if he is not taught in English is rooted in misconception, steeped in bias and contrary to the findings of pedagogical studies. I have nothing against English as a language. But it is established that a child learns better and faster if he is taught in his mother tongue. If he is forced to switch to another language because of the hierarchy drawn by elites, his learning process is disrupted. We should be proud of our languages… We have the oldest language, the oldest grammar and the oldest literature. As I said, I am not opposed to English, but we have an excellent pool of Indian languages, which should not be wasted. It is directly linked to the country’s progress and growth.
Reacting to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’ remarks that the BJP “taught rioters a lesson in 2002”, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Friday said that the lesson the party taught was that “rapists of Bilkis Bano” will be freed” by them. Owaisi was campaigning for the party’s Vejalpur candidate in Juhapura. “I want to tell India’s Union Home Minister, that the lesson you taught in 2002 was that Bilkis’ rapists will be freed by you. The lesson you taught was that you will free the murderers of Bilkis’ three-year-old daughter..You also taught us that Ahsan Jafri can be killed… which all lessons of yours will we remember Amit Shah sahab?..Remember the seat of power is snatched from all. Drunk with power, India’s home minister is saying they taught a lesson… Amit Shah sahab, what lesson did you teach that Delhi communal riots occurred?…,” said Owaisi.Meanwhile, reminding Juhapura residents of the 2002 Gujarat riots’ violence, and admitting that he too, in his youth, had seen Babri Masjid being taken, said that he does not want to see a similar future for the next generation. “Juhapura is like a wound in my chest. I came in 2002 with a team of 25-30 doctors. A hospital was ready and we asked them to please give us the hospital so that the doctors can work there. The doctors worked for 3 days. There were several who had come with wounds and our doctors from Hyderabad had treated them… In my youth, I saw Babri Masjid’s bricks coming down. I don’t want our kids to see such destruction. We need to fight for them, ensure there is peace for them,” said Owaisi.Campaigning for the Vejalpur candidate Zainabbibi Sheikh, Owaisi promised, “If you elect Vejalpur’s AIMIM candidate Zainabbibi Sheikh then a new TP scheme will be approved in this area.”Cautioning against dividing votes by voting for independent candidates, Owaisi said, “These people who are contesting as independent candidates, if you give them your vote, they won’t be able to win.” Owaisi’s statement comes after an AIMIM corporator —Suhana Mansuri — has chosen to contest as an independent after AIMIM denied her ticket from Vejalpur. “If you give your vote to Congress or AAP, that too will be wasted,” added Owaisi, while also attacking BJP for ignoring “this area (of Vejalpur).”Stating that BJP has been winning since the past 27 years because of “incompetency of Congress for the past 27 years,” Owaisi went on to attack AAP, saying “This Delhi CM is 2013’s Narendra Modi… he is following his footsteps, he is also a Hindutva ideology believer.”
Bhagat Singh Koshyari was appointed the governor of Maharashtra in September 2019 and since then he has frequently courted controversies, a trait that is turning into a major headache for the BJP.The latest controversy Koshyari finds himself embroiled in has seen even the top BJP leadership in the state distance itself from the governor. Koshyari on November 19 said at a function at Dr BR Ambedkar Marathwada University at Aurangabad that 17th-Century warrior king Chhatrapati Shivaji was an icon of the “olden days” and drew parallels with Ambedkar and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, whom he referred to as “icons of modern times”. This sparked a political firestorm, with Opposition parties such as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress, and the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction of the Shiv Sena calling for his removal.Aware that any attempt to bail out Koshyari might backfire for the party, BJP leaders refused to get dragged into defending him and hailed Shivaji’s life and legacy. Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis — whose wife Amruta incidentally came out in the governor’s support on Friday — said after the controversy flared up, “As long as the sun and the moon are there, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj will live. If we have to talk in the present context, Shivaji Maharaj is our hero.”Many in the state BJP believe that the Centre should look into the governor’s conduct and worry that if he continues, Opposition parties will always have a stick to beat it with. It has left many in the party exasperated as the state is set to enter a crucial stretch of politicking beginning with the civic body elections and then the all-important Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in 2024.A senior BJP functionary said, “When a person holds a Constitutional post, it is best to avoid controversial remarks. Today, nobody doubts Koshyari’s intention. We are sure he holds Shivaji in the highest regard, or, his comment on Mumbai was not against Marathis. But where was the need to comment at all?”Koshyari and controversiesThis is not the first time Koshyari has found himself in the middle of a raging controversy.In July, he rubbed people the wrong way saying, “If Gujaratis and Rajasthanis had left Mumbai there would have been no money left.” Though he apologised for his comments later, the damage was done. Mumbai was the bone of contention during the creation of Maharashtra and Gujarat and to keep the city in Maharashtra, the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement was launched in the 1950s. Almost 105 people were martyred during the struggle.In March, Koshyari drew flak after commenting on the marriage of iconic social reformers Savtribai Phule and Jyotiba Phule. “Savitribai was married off when she was 10 years old. Her husband Jyotiba was 13 years age. Imagine what the boy and girl would have been doing after marriage. What would they have been thinking?”The month before, while trying to explain the significance of gurus in the lives of their disciples, Koshyari made another comment about Shivaji that infuriated people. He said that without philosopher-poet Samarth Ramdas no one would have known Shivaji. “Who would have known about Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had there not been for his guru Samarth (Ramdas)?”Following the latest controversy, former BJP MP Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje, who is a descendant of Shivaji, said, “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is a legend. He is the guiding force and inspiration for past, present and future.”The BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Udayanraje Bhosale from the royal clan of Satara said he had written to PM Narendra Modi and President Droupadi Murmu, asking them to recall Koshiyari. Bhosale, who is the 13th direct descendant of Shivaji, has threatened to “take action” if action is not taken against Koshyari by November 28.
Yogesh Patel, the BJP candidate from Manjalpur in VadodaraVadodara: At 76, his appetite for a political fight has once again landed him in the thick of electioneering in Gujarat. When reminded by NDTV about the 75-year age-limit stipulated by his own party for its candidates, pat came the reply: "Look at Joe Biden. He's managing America at 80."Yogesh Patel, the BJP candidate from Manjalpur constituency in Vadodara, is contesting the Assembly elections for the eighth time and claims that his "hosh" (sense) and "josh" (resilience) will once again see him through, no matter his ripe old age.Reacting to a query on why was his party compelled to relax its own stipulation and field a candidate who is 76 years old, Mr Patel said: "I have always been in close contact with the people, even during times when I wasn't an MLA. That stands me in good stead."The BJP candidate, an MLA for 32 years, claimed that he has always worked for the people with all his heart and will be fighting this election in right earnest.When asked to comment about the AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) and Congress candidates' claims that this time they will be successful in Manjalpur, Mr Patel said: "Just wait for the results on December 8.""I'm quite sure that the AAP and Congress candidates in my constituency will both lose their deposits," a confident Mr Patel told NDTV while campaigning from his open-top four-wheel drive that has kept him company since his first campaign as a candidate, three decades ago.Elaborating on why he considers himself to be young at heart, the BJP candidate said there are people in their 20s who'd be idling their time at home. "For me, that's 'ageing'. Now, consider Joe Biden. He's managing entire America at 80. So age doesn't really count."PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comHe further said that maintaining punctuality in every sphere of life has kept him going for so long.Elections are scheduled to be held in Gujarat on December 1 and 5. Votes will be counted on December 8.
After 19 years of being an unsuccessful politician, Rahul Gandhi, dubbed as the “Pappu” of Indian politics, is beginning to be viewed differently as he walks the dusty bylanes from Kanyakumari to Kashmir on his Bharat Jodo Yatra.I went to see the yatra in Maharashtra and most of the people I talked to, driving 250 km from Aurangabad to Akola, and later following the yatra in Buldhana district, had, to my surprise, a positive word to say about the yatra. These were the aam aadmi and the aam aurat: a retired teacher, a fruit seller, a housewife, a cobbler, most of them in small towns and wayside villages. They all expressed a similar sentiment: “Paidal chalkar abhi tak humare paas koi nahin aaya hai. Humaen pasand aa raha hai.”(Nobody has come to us on foot like this and we like it.)A polio-hit retired government servant, 74, came from Nagpur with his son and daughter-in-law—old Congressis — to be part of the yatra for a few hours “to encourage Rahul”. An assistant professor from Amravati joined the yatra in Shegaon and said the time had now come “to work at the ground level because the opposition is blanked out.”Rahul talked about “berozgari, mehngai and nafrat,” (unemployment, inflation, hate) as he has done in the past, but it is resonating with many more today. With growing economic distress, some say they identify more with what Rahul “had been saying all along”.It is not so much Rahul Gandhi who has changed — as his comments on Savarkar illustrated; he had criticised in Maharashtra someone who is seen as an icon in the state.Nor do Rahul’s speeches set the house on fire. In a way, they are reminiscent of Rajiv Gandhi in the early years. In his campaign speeches in the 1983 state elections in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka — which the Congress lost — Rajiv used to painstakingly explain the value of hard work and abstract concepts of political freedom to puzzled audiences. In his speech at Shegaon, Rahul, too, dwelt philosophically, and at length, on the need to shed fear, and the linkages it had with hatred and violence.Significantly, it is the people’s perception of Rahul that is undergoing a change. There is only one reason for it, and person after person mentioned it. Rahul Gandhi had come to them on foot, walking 25 km a day. He need not have undertaken the yatra; after all, he is from a “shahi gharana”, they said. And having embarked on a mammoth journey of 3500 km, he had not run away — but stayed the course. It is this which has caught the imagination of a section of the people.Senior Congress leaders say he is like a “man possessed”, determined to complete the yatra. Given his interest in martial arts over the years, and the daily fitness regimen he reportedly follows, Rahul walks so fast that if you blink, he is gone.As he walks, he is cordoned off by a rope held by a string of policemen to prevent people from entering the walking enclosure. He has two planned “sitting interactions” with individuals or groups and three daily walking “interactions”, all cleared by the party (and they do not allow media persons near him). It is not as if those waiting by the wayside get a chance to exchange a word with him — or he with them.The day I saw him, he walked with Tushar Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, signifying the coming together, once again, of the Gandhi and Nehru-Gandhi families for uniting India.And yet the yatra is rebranding Rahul Gandhi. It is also bestowing on him a legitimacy that was earlier missing. Two years ago, the dissenting group of G-23 in the Congress had questioned his leadership — and his behind-the-scenes decision-making without accountability. Today, without being the president of the party, he is emerging as the unquestioned leader of the Congress.Yet, without a revival of the Congress organisation, Rahul’s yatra will only be a flash in the pan. The elephant in the room, then, is the Congress organisation, admit senior Congress leaders.The curiosity about the yatra, and the visible response to it, has perked up the Congress cadre. It was after 10 years that the Congress organised a meeting in Maharashtra as large as the one in Shegaon, with 150 Congress leaders on the dais, and people pouring in from neighbouring districts and local police putting the estimates at 2-3 lakh jampacked in the 22-acre ground.These meetings will be no more than an exercise in event management unless followed up with an action plan — and painstaking, hard work behind the lights, which the Congress has shown little appetite for. The BJP’s winning streak combines Narendra Modi’s appeal with Amit Shah’s organisational prowess.It goes without saying that the acid test of Rahul’s yatra will lie in winning elections. But, curiously, he has tried to delink the yatra from electoral gains, not to appear power hungry —but this makes little sense. A political party is nothing if it cannot win elections and deliver on its promises.And this is not only about winning 2024 two years away. Nor about the elections due in Maharashtra the same year. All eyes will now be on the imminent 26 municipal corporation polls, including the BMC, that are due in Maharashtra. How will the Congress fare, for instance, in the local polls in Nanded, where Rahul walked for many days and is supposed to have made an impact? Or, in the four other districts of Maharashtra the yatra touched? How does the Congress encash the interest the yatra has rekindled in the party?If the Congress loses the Gujarat elections, which it seems to have given up on, and does not manage to get Himachal Pradesh in its bag, Rahul’s yatra can also lose steam. If the party wins Himachal – which even if it has little to do with Rahul or Bharat Jodo — it will give a further impetus to the yatra.Now that the yatra has strengthened his position, Rahul Gandhi will be watched for how he handles the latest crisis in Rajasthan, with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot going ballistic against his younger colleague Sachin Pilot, calling him a “gaddar” (traitor). It is a pre-emptive strike by Gehlot to prevent Pilot from becoming the CM. By vehemently declaring that Pilot will not become CM, the normally measured CM has virtually threatened a split if the party high command replaces him with Pilot.Rahul Gandhi has to figure out how he redeems his word to Pilot, signals to younger leaders they will be rewarded if they work hard and deliver, weakens the anti-incumbency of four years by projecting a new face in the state like Pilot — and ensure that the Congress government does not fall in Rajasthan.Whatever be the outcome of the Bharat Jodo yatra, Rahul Gandhi has certainly set a new benchmark for political action — that leaders must go back to the people and listen to them. And even in a 24 X 7 image-rich politics, powered by the videoclip, the challenge is the effort they put in when the camera is off.Neerja Chowdhury, Contributing Editor, The Indian Express, has covered the last 10 Lok Sabha elections
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Friday that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was avoiding Gujarat because he already knew the results of the upcoming Assembly elections.“He (Rahul Gandhi) is not going to come to Mahudha. He knows the results and so he is not showing his face in Gujarat,” Shah said while addressing an election meeting in Kheda district’s Mahudha constituency, which is held by the Opposition Congress.Earlier, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said Gandhi had attended only three election rallies in Gujarat thus far, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was camping in the state. “Look at Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party. There is no sweat or work or effort. Without these you cannot win elections. Rahul Gandhi came to attend only three sabhas,” he said at a press conference on Thursday.Referring to the distribution of free foodgrains among 80 crore homes during the Covid pandemic, Shah said, “This work was done so beautifully that there was no corruption anywhere. If this had happened during Congress rule, foodgrains meant for the poor would have gone outside the country via Nepal, and you would have seen new cars having four rings (referring to Audi) parked in the houses of Congress leaders in Kheda.”“During the 10 years of Congress rule [at the Centre] between 2004 and 2014, a Rs 12 lakh-crore scam took place. A journalist told me a beautiful thing: during the Congress rule, there were so many scams that they could not be counted, but there is no scam during BJP rule. This is the difference between the two. Congress leaders filled their houses with money. They got votes in the name of poverty, but did nothing for the poor. Instead of removing poverty, they removed the poor,” he added.
Milind Deora, Congress observer for Gujarat, says "strong undercurrent" against BJP. (File)New Delhi/Ahmedabad: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has a lot of "hype" but will remain a "marginal player" in the Gujarat assembly elections, Congress leader Milind Deora said on Friday and asserted that his party would belie predictions to spring a surprise in the polls.Mr Deora, who is a Congress party observer for the Gujarat polls, said there is a "strong undercurrent" of anti-incumbency against the BJP government in the state and the Congress has opted for a very localised campaign that is different from the 2017 elections.In an interview with PTI, the leader from Maharashtra said the Bharat Jodo Yatra will have a positive impact on the polls and though Rahul Gandhi was busy with it, he would make more visits to the state for campaigning.Asked about the low-key campaign of the Congress in the state, the former Union minister said, "I would not agree that we are not putting our best effort. It is a very different type of campaign from the last time." In the 2017 polls, there were issues such as the Patidar agitation, demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, which led to public demonstrations against the government, he said.This time, there is a very "strong undercurrent" of anti-incumbency against the state government and the Congress is carrying out a very localised, personalised and orthodox campaign, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi alluded to, Mr Deora said."The prime minister himself told the (BJP) workers that the Congress has a very localised campaign. So, I think the strategy is different, it is not something as visible as last time because of the events preceding that election but the party is on the ground, exposing the government and taking advantage of anti-incumbency," he asserted.On the entry of the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP and if it will dent Congress' chances in Gujarat, he said the AAP was also cutting into the BJP's votes and so he does not think that it was a spoiler only for one party."I think it (AAP) is cutting into the votes of the BJP as well. So, in that sense the AAP will have a neutralising effect on both the main parties," he said.He asserted that the Congress still has a "very strong presence" in Gujarat and the voters who want to defeat the BJP understand that it is the "only option"."AAP definitely has a lot of hype, lot of media (attention), but on the ground the voters are still familiar with the Congress, we have a local rung of leaders cutting across regions and different communities that the public is familiar with," he said.Deora said he believes that the AAP will remain a "marginal player" and the real contest would be between the BJP and the Congress.Asked why the Congress was not able to capitalise on anti-incumbency in previous polls, Deora said there were many reasons for that and there were emotive issues that gave the BJP an advantage."Purely on development issues, there is certainly anti-incumbency, but in elections sometimes there are many emotive issues," he said.For instance, for several years now the fact that the prime minister hails from Gujarat certainly gives the BJP an advantage, he added."There are emotive issues that give the BJP an advantage but from a purely developmental standpoint, Gujarat is a state, the Congress has a base in Gujarat. We may not have come to power in a long time but it is different from a state such as Uttar Pradesh where we are a marginal player," he said.Noting that in the 2017 assembly polls, the Congress came extremely close to winning the election, Mr Deora said people should think several times before ruling out or writing off the party in Gujarat."I believe that the Congress will certainly surprise critics and political pundits," he said.The Congress still has a presence in Gujarat, it is popular among its core voters, there are regions such as Saurashtra where it is very strong, he said. "I do believe that there will be surprises in this election," Deora said.Asked if the Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) would split the anti-BJP vote, Mr Deora said parties such as the AIMIM and the AAP were all "marginal players" in the Gujarat polls and have different agendas."But I think the voters in states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are different from West Bengal or Uttar Pradesh where voters against the BJP may rally behind a regional party. I think in states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the people see the Congress as an alternative to the BJP," he said.On Gandhi having just held two election rallies till now, Deora said the former Congress chief has chosen to take out the yatra but has campaigned on more than one occasion.Gandhi had held two poll rallies in Gujarat earlier this week and had also participated in an event before the yatra."In India, every six months there are elections, so by that rationale you can never take out a Yatra. There will always be a state election that will coincide with a five-month-long yatra," he said.Gandhi is campaigning and he will make more visits, Mr Deora added.He stressed that even though the Yatra is not passing through Gujarat, people are paying attention to it."People and workers of the party across the country are motivated by it. I think that it will have a positive impact (on the Gujarat polls) for sure," he said.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com"As I said, our campaign has been a very different campaign for a long time. There is anti-incumbency which is not manifesting in an agitation by a community or an event such as demonetisation," Deora said.Voting to elect a new 182-member Gujarat Assembly will be held in two phases -- December 1 (89 seats) and 5 (93 seats) -- and ballots will be counted on December 8. Featured Video Of The DayHow To Track FIFA World Cup
Kutiyana is part of Gujarat's Porbandar district, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi.Kutiyana (Gujarat): The BJP seeks votes in the name of Narendra Modi but "will you call up the Prime Minister over issues in your village", asks incumbent MLA Kandhal Jadeja as a small crowd cheers the strongman politician's pitch to re-elect him to get things done locally and not depend on Delhi.As the highway winds down to India's border on the western coast, the buzz about who will form the next government in Gujarat gives way to whether the political dominance of 'bhai', as Mr Jadeja is often referred to, will continue in this largely rural assembly segment.Son of Santokben Jadeja whose criminal enterprise had spawned the Hindi film 'Godmother', he himself is an accused in numerous serious criminal cases but claims that they belong to the past and that people vote for him due to his accessibility and work.He has been among a handful of state MLAs who have been winning on the strength of their personal appeal in the last two polls in an otherwise heavily bipolar electoral scene in the state, unaffected by larger political trends.It is not 'takat ka jod' (use of force) but 'ekta ka jod' (power of unity), Mr Jadeja tells PTI while pointing to the crowd of people around him when asked about the charge of intimidatory tactics against him, and then adds that big parties oppose him as he "lives" in people's hearts.Across the constituency, there are people who admire him for his ready willingness to help them and push development work, but many also admit that he is not the one to take any opposition kindly.Kutiyana is part of Gujarat's Porbandar district, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. It is alleged that Mr Jadeja's parents used to run a criminal enterprise, which flourished on smuggling and violence, in the port region before police action weakened the gang.Porbandar, though, is a separate assembly constituency in the district.His father Sarman Munja Jadeja was shot dead by rivals, drawing his mother in the charge of the family's alleged crime syndicate. She was elected as an MLA from Kutiyana in 1990.Having won in the last two polls on the Nationalist Congress Party's ticket, Kandhal Jadeja is contesting as Samajwadi Party's candidate after the NCP denied him renomination at its ally Congress' behest because of his support to the ruling BJP on several issues, including in the crucial Rajya Sabha polls.This has also helped him in getting development projects implemented in his constituency, locals say, adding that 'Kandhal bhai' believes in getting things done and is not much concerned with the manners of it.He, himself, does not deny such a suggestion. "Kaam ke liye thoda idhar udhar karta hun. Kaam hai to naam hai. (I do bend things a little for work. If work is done, then you are recognised)," he says.And that is why, Mr Jadeja adds, he does not join big parties like the BJP or the Congress."In big parties, you have to follow rules. But I do not believe in following rules but getting my work done," he says.Though candidates of the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party are also contesting against him, BJP's Dheliben Odedara is seen as his main challenger.Ms Odedara is the local municipal body chairperson and has portrayed herself as a woman of courage who has dared to take on Mr Jadeja.She is also his distant relative and hopes to walk away with a share of votes from the Maher community, who are in large numbers in Kutiyana.There is also a view among locals that Mr Jadeja may be a strongman, but is also a crafty political operator who has maintained good ties with the BJP and the Congress.Many local Congress workers are supporting him as they know that a win for Mr Jadeja is one seat less for the BJP, many people in the constituency say.Mr Jadeja himself is keen to keep himself out of the BJP vs the Congress battle."My only focus is 'vikas' of my constituency. I don't care about what is happening elsewhere," he says.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comAsked about his take on the likely assembly poll outcome, he again throws a googly, saying no party may get a majority. So who will he support? "Whichever party ensures 'vikas' of my constituency," he says.(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)Featured Video Of The DayWatch Arvind Kejriwal's Townhall: "Give Me CBI For One Day..."
NEW DELHI: A glance at the voting pattern in Gujarat's urban clusters in the last two assembly elections leaves no room for ambiguity- they have been a saffron bastion, with green apearing in sporadic patches. Overall, the Congress put up a vastly improved showing in 2017, winning 99 seats in the 182-member assembly- 38 more than 2012. But the trend did not reflect in most of the 73 'urban' seats across Gujarat. The BJP won 56, and the Congress 17- adding just 3 to its 2012 tally of 14. Most of these came from in and around Ahmedabad, and a couple from the Rajkot region. What factors could hold the key this time? New voters could be one, for sure. A comparison of the number of voters in Gujarat in 2017 and 2022 shows that 12 of 20 assembly constituencies that registered the maximum increase over the past five years are in urban areas. Perhaps it is safe to assume that migration is a factor behind these seats adding new voters. Is it a reflection of better economic opportunities created in towns and cities? If so, then is it driven by synergy between the BJP governments at the Centre and in state? Also, Gujarat's cities have seen several big ticket projects over the past few years- including in infrastructure, industry and transportation spaces. No surprise then, the BJP is betting hard on the development plank to woo voters. Stopping the BJP juggernaut in Gujarat's urban clusters will be key to the Congress's chances in the state.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) put out a video Thursday that showed Delhi Chief Minister and party supremo Arvind Kejriwal appealing to the Congress voters in Gujarat not to vote for the grand old party as it was, he said, “never going to form the government”.Kejriwal is shown in the video addressing the Congress supporters in the poll-bound state in Gujarati, saying: “Namaskar! Kem cho? Maja ma? Shu tame Congress na samrthak cho? Humesha Congress ne mat aapta aavyo cho? Toh maari tamane ek vinanti che…Aa vakhate Congress ne mat na aapsho. Aa vakhate Aam Aadmi Party ne mat aapsho. (Hello! How are you? Good? Are you the supporters of Congress? Have you always voted for Congress? I have one request for you… This time do not vote for Congress. This time vote for AAP.”)Seeking to replace the Congress as the main challenger of the ruling BJP in Gujarat, the AAP has all along been urging the people of the state not to “spoil” their votes by backing the Congress, charging that after being elected the latter’s MLAs would cross over to the saffron camp.The Punjab CM and AAP leader, Bhagwant Mann, has also attacked the Congress for allegedly “selling out” its MLAs to the BJP. The AAP’s star campaigners like Kejriwal and Mann, who have been regularly touring Gujarat for the past several weeks, have so far restricted their campaign pitch to Hindi in their rallies, road shows and public interactions except for greetings like “Kem cho? Maja ma? (How are you? Good?)” or one-liners like “Tamne chinta karvanu zaroorat nathi, tamar bhai aavi gayo che, (You don’t need to worry, your brother has come).”
ONE OF the highlights of the Supreme Court’s recent hearings on the appointment of Election Commissioners was its reference to the contributions of late Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) T N Seshan.Hearing petitions seeking reforms in the system of appointing election commissioners, the Court said a CEC should be someone “with character” who “does not allow himself to be bulldozed”, and that a person like the late T N Seshan “happens once in a while”.The 10th CEC of India, Seshan headed the poll panel from December 12, 1990, to December 11, 1996 – serving the full tenure of six years. At its recent hearings, the Supreme Court also noted that few CECs had actually got to do that, with all appointees since 2004 retiring before that time.Appointed to the Election Commission (EC) after retiring from the IAS, Seshan’s tenure is remembered for strengthening the independence of the EC apart from strict implementation of its rules. The Model Code of Conduct came to be as rigidly observed as it is now after Seshan.He was also instrumental in introducing photo identity cards or Voter ID cards for voters, as a means to check fraudulent voting. While now almost all voters hold such cards, in 1995, when he announced the same, there was stiff opposition from political leaders, who insisted it could not be implemented in a country like India. Seshan also enforced spending limits on candidates during polls.In 1993, during Seshan’s term, the P V Narasimha Rao-led Congress government expanded the EC to a three-member panel, with all commissioners holding equal powers, seen a move to rein in Seshan.In a tribute to him after his death in 2019, the EC noted the change Seshan had brought about in office. “Shri Seshan redefined the very grammar of the electoral process. Holding the constitutional post of CEC, he enhanced the stature of the office by coming down heavily on electoral malpractices and dealing sternly, even ruthlessly, with violence and muscle power, which were at (an) all time high when he took over. He redeemed the autonomy and authority that the Constitution has bestowed upon ECI (Election Commission of India) under Article 324 of the Constitution. Refusing to act merely as manager of monitoring of electoral process, he started proactively purging the elections of their evils like money, liquor, muscle power, booth capturing etc,” the EC said.Seshan, the poll panel added, was the right person at the right place and right time.O P Rawat, who was the CEC from January 23, 2018, to December 1, 2018, told The Indian Express that while it was not appropriate to say that Seshan was “the only CEC” to have made a “sterling contribution”, his efforts were “singular”.“The first democratic elections were conducted under Sukumar Sen at a time when the conditions were bad. Lakhs of people had migrated due to Partition, people were in refugee camps and were looking for their kin. Making the electoral roll at that time was a Herculean task. From the limited franchise in British India, with only four crore electors, we had over 17 crore electors in the first elections after Independence. With all those odds, the single-man commission conducted the elections in a free and fair manner and proved the British and all other critics wrong,” Rawat said, speaking of the first elections held in independent India in 1951 and 1952.What Seshan achieved, Rawat added, was the revival of the reputation of the EC, which had taken a beating in the preceding decades. And in that regard, he said, the Supreme Court was right in recognising his role. “He brought many reforms and rose to the occasion.”Rawat also pointed out that even J M Lyngdoh, who was the CEC from June 14, 2001 to February 7, 2004, had left his mark by ensuring free and fair elections in Gujarat in the aftermath of the 2002 riots. “So, it is not appropriate to say that only Seshan did a marvellous job.”On the Supreme Court’s observation that the government seemed to pick officials near retirement age for the EC, apparently to ensure they didn’t have long tenures, Rawat said one way of checking this would be to increase the retirement age of an Election Commissioner from 65 to 67. Since bureaucrats retire at 60 from service, they would still get a six-year term if appointed to the poll panel, he said.One reason Seshan was able to have a six-year term was that the retirement age for the IAS at that time was 58 and not 60 as it is now, Rawat noted.After retiring from the EC, Seshan had taken on a different role in electoral politics. In 1997, he unsuccessfully contested the Presidential election against K R Narayanan, and in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, he was the Congress’s candidate against BJP leader L K Advani from Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
The symbiotic relationship between the political class and spiritual gurus is certainly not new to public life in the country. Over the decades, ascetics have often dominated political discourse in the country, have been advisors to politicians of all hues, and have even been public representatives in the form of chief ministers and members of Parliament. The Gujarat assembly election will see as many as four sadhus and saints whose political fate will be decided by the electorate. While the BJP has fielded two sadhus, a lesser-known party, Gujarat Navnirman Sena, has fielded two more for the upcoming poll. Interestingly, the BJP has fielded a monk and a mahant on two seats bagged by the rival Congress in the 2017 assembly election. Shambhuprasad Tundiya, whom the BJP has fielded from the Gadhada seat, is the ‘mahant’ of Sant Shri Savaiyanath Samadhi Sthaan of Zanzarka village in Ahmedabad district. Tundiya has been pitched against Jagdish Chavda for the seat. Tundiya represented the Dasada assembly constituency from 2007 to 2012 on a BJP ticket and was laterelected the BJP Rajya Sabha member from 2014 to 2020. The saffron party picked Tundiya over Atmaram Parmar, the sitting candidate from the seat. Parmar had lost the assembly election from the same seat in 2017, but won it when a by-election was held in 2020 after Pravin Maru, the Congress MLA from Gadhada, quit. The BJP has also fielded a sadhu on the Jambusar seat in the Bharuch district. Devkishoredasji Swami, 50, popularly known as D K Swami, stays at the Nahiyer Swaminarayan Gurukul at Amod in Bharuch district. The sadhu from the Swaminarayan sect is contesting his first election from the seat. The Congress has renominated sitting MLA Sanjay Solanki from this seat. Launched recently, the Gujarat Navnirman Sena has picked sadhus as its candidates for the Chanasma and Radhanpur assembly constituencies of North Gujarat. The Chanasma seat is held by the BJP, while the Congress’s Raghu Desai is the sitting MLA of Radhanpur, having defeated BJP leader Alpesh Thakor in a by-poll in 2019. Atul Dave, the national president of Gujarat Navnirman Sena, says the party’s primary goal is to have a sadhu as the CM of Gujarat. “We also want the cow to be declared the national animal,” he said. “I have been a sadhu for 13 years, and the communal and caste-based politics disillusion me. I am in the fray to usher in a new kind of politics since I have no greed for money or power,” says Shivanand Saraswati, the GNS candidate from the Chanasma seat. The other sadhu, Devendra Kumar Sadhu, fielded from the Radhanpur seat, is keen on “gau raksha”. “I run a cow shelter and hope that people will choose me to ensure the welfare of cows in Radhanpur and surrounding areas,” he said.
A video of B M Sandeep, secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) and in-charge of south Gujarat assembly election running through the streets of Mahidharpura surfaced on Thursday. It is claimed that he was running from the election commission’s flying squad that had caught a car carrying Rs 74. 82 lakh. Sandeep has vanished from the city though the election campaign is at its peak. His phone went missing from the spot after which Congress workers submitted an application to the police. Udaysingh Ramkrusna Gurjar, a Congress worker from Rajasthan and driver of the car, Faiz Riyaz Saiyed were nabbed by the team at the spot. They were allowed to go after the cash was handed over to the I-T department for further investigation. AICC general secretary, Mukul Wasnik, said, “Why was no case registered? Our leaders will give details of cash to the concerned department. This is an attempt to target the Congress when no wrong has been done. ”