Gujarat will teach Modi a lesson in Assembly polls, says Shakti Singh Gohil

In an exclusive interview with National Herald, the Gujarat Congress leader spells out his party’s strategy to take on the Modi-Shah election machine

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter


BJP claims it will win the next Assembly election. What would you say?

Modi was there as the leader in all previous elections that BJP won here. He raised the issue of “Gujarati identity.” Modi misled people by alleging that “Congress ne Gujarat ko thappad mara (Congress slapped Gujarat)”.

He misled the people by making false accusations that the Manmohan Singh-led government has done favoritism with Gujarat but this is not going to work this time. He himself has been sitting on the chair of the Prime Minister for over three years. He cannot make any excuse. He owns the responsibility. Now, people of Gujrat have realised that it is Modi who has slapped Gujarat, not the Congress.

The second crucial factor is related to farmers in distress. When Modi was active in Gujarat politics, he ran a campaign among cotton producing farmers for maximum payment. He used to say that his heart bled when he saw farmers get less than ₹2000 for 20 kg of cotton. He blamed the Congress for all of that and created an impression that the Congress was solely responsible for the injustice meted out to farmers (though he was the Chief Minister that time). But the reality is that during the 10 years of Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, farmers were getting maximum payment for their produce. They were paid ₹1500 for 20 kg cotton. But after the Modi government took charge, price of cotton has drastically gone down. Now, BJP government does not pay more than ₹800-850 for 20 kg of cotton.

In addition to it, unfulfilled promises and organisational weakness of the BJP will add insult to the. Amit Shah has selected junior and inexperienced leaders to run the government. Vijay Rupani is a first timer in the Assembly and Shah has made him the CM. Likewise, Jitu Vaghani, who lost the election against me in 2007, despite the Modi wave, is leading the party. Both are known for their disconnect with the people. Amit Shah wants to control the party from back door. That is why he has selected weak leaders. This will also be a factor in the election.

There is a perception in media that Gujarat is a corruption-free state. What is your opinion?

Till the time Modi was active in state politics, he created a perception that he was a crusader against corruption and that he did not allow corruption to flourish in his government. But, there is always a difference between perception and reality. Reality is that the corruption which Modi allowed to happen during his time in Gujarat is incomparable. After in-depth research, I have outlined five sectors where corruption took place during Modi’s rule.

The Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) was badly hit by corruption. Modi gave free hand to his loyalists, bureaucrats and industrialists to make money. Then comes corruption in the purchase of coal.

Corruption in distribution of port land comes next. Gujarat has 1660 kilometers of coast, the longest in the country. In the name of development of the ports, Modi distributed land almost free of cost to his party men and the businessmen who funded BJP.

The much-hyped “Vibrant Gujarat Summit” is nothing but a programme to encourage under the table dealings, nepotism and crony capitalism and corruption. Prime land across cities in Gujarat was sold to industrialists. Modi has created a perception that he made Gujarat the most developed and corruption-free state, but the reality is that Aam Aadmi is reeling under corruption. Corruption has become endemic in the state.

Will Modi be a factor?

Gujaratis are very smart. They know who they should vote for. In 2002, after the Godhra carnage, they voted for Modi but that was a different situation altogether. In 2004, they voted for us. Modi used all his might and tactics to defeat Congress in the state but people voted for us. We won 12 out of 26 seats. Then again in 2007, people voted for Modi in the Assembly election but in 2009 again, people voted for the Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi-led UPA.

Why has Amit Shah been brought into the Rajya Sabha?

Amit Shah has been brought into the Rajya Sabha to execute ‘wrongdoings’ on behalf of Modi. Modi and Shah are made for each other. Both know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. Modi does not trust Rajnath completely. He knows that Rajnath cannot go beyond a certain limit. That is why he needed Amit Shah in Parliament. He was looking for a smooth operator.

You would be in the know of Snoop gate. Modi handed him over the task of snooping over a girl. After the news broke out, the girl became untraceable. Killers of Haren Pandya have not been arrested so far. He was a senior minister in the Modi cabinet and an RSS man but he was killed in broad daylight. Modi was the Chief Minister of the state and BJP was in the power at the Centre but neither his killers nor the conspirators could be arrested.

Which issues is the Congress going to raise?

We will raise issues that matter to the public. We will go with a positive agenda in the election. Our fight is not against Modi or any other leader. We will go to the election with the slogan of Navsrijan of Gujarat. We will talk about making a new Gujarat. Farmers not getting electricity, unemployment will be some of our issues.

Education is in the worst shape in Gujarat. Almost 80 per cent post of principals are lying vacant in engineering colleges. I have raised this issue in the Assembly too. Sixty per cent posts of teachers are lying vacant. We will raise the issue of equal payment in coming time. Youth are being exploited. They are forced to do menial jobs.

Will you form an Alliance with Hardik Patel?

We want likeminded people, political parties, political activists to form an alliance to defeat BJP in the election.

We know that Hardik Patel is a victim of the BJP’s divisive politics. He was arrested and jailed but he faced all of that bravely, did not compromise. BJP could not break his morale. He comes from the Patidar community, which gives BJP not only notes but also votes. Because of the backing of this powerful community, the arrogance of Amit Shah shot up to the sky. In turn, he ordered suppression. He is the man who is responsible for the atrocities against Patidars.

Community leaders told me that following Amit Shah’s dictate, police arrested and tortured their sons and relatives. It is an issue related to the honour, heart and the sentiment of the Patidar community. I know they will not spare BJP in the election. However, Patel did not try to reach out to us but we are ready to take likeminded people with us. Anti-BJP votes should not get divided.

It is said that the Congress lost election after election because it did not care about the Hindu vote bank. How will you respond to this?

We will not compromise with the ‘idea of India’ envisaged by Nehru. Secularism will not be compromised. Everyone should know that we are not going to promote any soft Hindutva. Hinduism is not synonymous with Moditva as propagated by right wing people. We are not against Hinduism but Modified Hinduism. Our Sanatan Dharma teaches us to respect every religion. It teaches us the philosophy of coexistence and peaceful living. The Hindutva propagated/advertised by BJP and RSS is an aberration.

Do you not fear for your life?

One day everyone has to leave. To speak the truth is my choice. Rather than living in fear, I would like to say what is truth, what people should know. I do not take much security. I drive myself, roam around freely. I am fighting for truth. No one can harm me. Life and death are not in my hand. It is decided by the Almighty.

Do you think that many more may defect from the Congress during the election?

Those who wanted to leave the party have gone already. I do not see any reason for defection. We have the blessings of the people of Gujarat. People have seen what Amit Shah-Narendra Modi did during the Rajya Sabha election: How MLAs were offered crores of rupees to defect from the Congress; How they were trapped, made hostage. The house of Karnataka minister DK Shivakumar, who gave us shelter, was raided but our MLAs remained firm. Modi and Shah could not buy their loyalty and honesty.

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Published: 17 Aug 2017, 10:23 AM