Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are having elections this season. We already know the vote counting dates of both the states. Votes are going to be counted on December 8. We also know the election dates of Himachal Pradesh. However, we don’t know the election dates for Gujarat. This is because Prime Minister Narendra Modi is deliberately delaying elections in his home state, Gujarat Congress in-charge Raghu Sharma tells Vibes of India.
In an interview with Janvi Sonaiya of Vibes of India, Dr Raghu Sharma emphasises that PM Modi and his party have realised that gathering crowds using government machinery and public speeches cannot fool the public for long. He says that the fact that Modi is compelled to spend so much time in Gujarat for the forthcoming Assembly elections is itself a testimony to the fact that the BJP is not comfortable and confident in its “home ground”.
Here are the excerpts of the interview that can be watched on:
Bhashan baaji is not good governance
An empty stomach needs food, not bhashans and hollow speeches, says Raghu Sharma.
“Bhashan dene se pet nahi bharta (Empty stomachs are not filled by public speeches). Gujarat needs governance.”
Why is public money being spent on Gujarat election campaign
“The prime minister is running the BJP campaign in Gujarat with the government’s money. The BJP is not as comfortable as it is claiming to be in Gujarat. These are not national elections. They are state elections but still, the prime minister is campaigning big time and is staying put in Gujarat. All the campaigning they (BJP are doing is on government expenditure on the taxpayers money,” says Raghu Sharma. He further tells Vibes of India that while Congress is running the campaign from the party’s funds, it is sad that the richest party of India — the BJP — is spending public money for the campaigning. “The BJP is very nervous in Gujarat. These are the reasons that though the vote counting dates have been declared, the election dates in Gujarat are yet to be declared,” Sharma says. Of course, without saying it in many words, Sharma says that it is not the BJP but the Election Commission of India (ECI) that has to announce the polling dates.
On Prime Minister Modi’s campaign visits to Gujarat
On Modi’s frequent visits to Gujarat, Sharma says, “Let’s welcome our prime minister in Gujarat. This is his home state and he has all the right, and the right reasons to be here. But let us also understand the idea behind his now very frequent visits to the state. Why should he visit his state so often? His name is enough. Is it a small thing that the leader from this state is the prime minister? CR Paatil and CM Bhupendra Patel should be ideally the main campaigners. But because BJP is nervous, the PM himself has to camp in Gujarat.” Dr Sharma categorically tells Vibes of India that it is sad that no mainstream media is writing about all this.
On Gujarat Election dates
The Election Commission of India declared the dates for the Himachal elections while the announcement for Gujarat Polling Dates is still due. On this Sharma says, “This has been done to give more time to the PM to conduct his meetings and public gatherings — everything at the expense of the government. In a democracy, the election results’ date has been announced for the state but the election dates have not been announced. Never has such a thing ever happened in our democracy. This is shocking but surprisingly again, the mainstream media will not write about it. This is surprising, isn’t it?”
On leadership in Congress
When questioned about the absence of strong leadership in Congress, Raghu Sharma vehemently denies it. “The Congress is the oldest political party of India – we have no dearth of strong, independent leaders and thinkers. It is the BJP that has a leadership crisis.”
Dr Sharma tells Vibes of India that Congress is a truly democratic party. The recent presidential elections prove this. “It is the BJP which is autocratic and leaderless. The BJP has just two leaders and decision makers–PM Modi and Amit Shah,” he tells Vibes of India (Vo!).
On Congress’ campaign strategy in Gujarat
Raghu Sharma candidly admits that this time they have changed their campaign strategy. He says this is the first time Congress has begun a door- to-door campaign and has “indulged” in booth management exercise.
When it comes to Congress’ preparedness for the forthcoming Gujarat elections, Sharma says, “Just because Rahul Gandhi has not visited Gujarat doesn’t mean Congress is not active in the state. We have conducted over 1,500 meetings with leaders, stakeholders and the public across Gujarat. We have changed our campaigning style as well. We are focusing on booth management and also have five yatras across the state – starting from October 31. We have met thousands of aam aadmi (common people) and have made a list of issues bothering them. We are in the process of chalking out our manifesto on the basis of this feedback. “
On Rahul Gandhi not visiting Gujarat like Prime Minister Modi is…
Dr Raghu Sharma says these are state elections and not national elections. “Just because PM Modi is camping every other day in Gujarat does not mean our leaders should also do the same. In fact, Rahul Gandhi will on and off visit Gujarat. Unlike power- crazy BJP, for us national interest matters more,” says Dr Sharma. He, however, says that soon Rahul Gandhi will start his Gujarat visits taking out time from his Bharat Jodo Yatra. Also, Priyanka Gandhi will visit Gujarat. “Rahul and Priyanka will also visit Gujarat. They will be a part of our yatras for the Gujarat elections.”
On BJP’s Gaurav Yatra
“BJP’s Gaurav Yatra is a flop. Look at the protests of people in Amreli and other villages of Gujarat. People want a change and there will be a change…. our campaign has started.”
On Rajasthan Model of Governance
Health is the major thrust of the Rajasthan Model and Raghu Sharma emphasises bringing it to Gujarat. “Mukhya Mantri Chiranjeevi Yojana is a public-centric scheme where Rs 5,000 in cash is granted to all those who take road accident victims to the hospital has been directly lifted from the Rajasthan Model that the Gujarat Congress will be keen to implement in the state.”
On Aam Aadmi Party
“AAP is the B-team of BJP. They are here to help the BJP and dent into Congress’ votes. Their leader Arvind Kejriwal comes to Gujarat in a private jet and then shows off by “doing” a rickshaw ride for dinner at a rickshaw driver’s home. Voters are smart enough to understand this gimmick. Kejriwal is talking about mohallah clinics, but before bragging, he should first visit the clinics the Rajasthan government has built over the years. We have done extensive work in removing unemployment and building healthcare facilities,” Dr Sharma, who has been a health minister in the recent past in Rajasthan, tells Vibes of India.