Women will show BJP the door: Rajkot Congress candidate Dhanani

"Misuse of official machinery is the Gujarat model. Now the entire country is witnessing it..."

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Amey Tirodkar

The Congress candidate from Rajkot for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Paresh Dhanani, is pitted against Union minister of state for agriculture and farmer welfare Parshottam Rupala, who has been in the news for his inflammatory remarks on Rajput women. The Rajput-Kshatriya community is incensed, and Dhanani, former leader of the Opposition in Gujarat, exudes confidence in this interaction with Amey Tirodkar:

You are fighting from a tough seat...

The BJP has always been successful in Gujarat, where people vote along the divisive lines of caste and religion. I am fighting this election to stop this agenda. The BJP has never sought votes for their work. From gram panchayat to Parliament, sarpanch to Prime Minister, the BJP seeks votes through divisive politics. People are now seeing through the BJP’s game.

You defeated Rupala in Amreli 20 years ago. Are you confident of repeating that?

The 2024 election is about saving India, our Constitution. The idea of India is about unity in diversity. This unity is in danger. Who wins in Rajkot is not a personal concern. We want the INDIA bloc to win.

Do you think the Rajput protests will have an impact?

The protests are not limited to a single community. Earlier, the BJP had disrespected Dalit women. During the Patidar agitation, they beat up Patidar women. Now it is the Kshatriya women. This is the arrogance of power. The BJP will be thrown out of power by women this time.

The Congress’ performance in the 2022 Assembly election was the worst ever in Gujarat. Is the Congress strong enough to fight the BJP’s election machinery?

The reason behind the 2022 defeat was division of votes between Congress and AAP (Aam Aadmi Party). This time, the parties are together. We do have support of many smaller like-minded groups too. So, 2024 will be different.

This is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state. He has a catchy slogan: ‘ab ki baar, 400 paar’. Can INDIA overcome Modi?

The BJP itself has realised that it cannot cross 400 seats. They (party leaders) are not even talking about it.

Some of your MLAs and prominent leaders have joined the BJP in the past month. Doesn’t this show even Congress leaders have little faith in the party’s future?

The BJP has realised that it will be unable to win this time. That’s why people and parties that would be the voice of the Opposition are being poached or broken into factions. But this time, the battle is between the people and the BJP. The people will vote for the party that stands against the BJP.

In Surat, Nilesh Kumbhani’s nomination was rejected. The BJP has been elected unopposed. Don’t you think this exposes a lack of coordination in the Congress?

Misuse of official machinery is the Gujarat model. Now the entire country is witnessing it. People in Gujarat and outside are furious over Surat. The complete disrespect of free and fair elections, of democracy, is the character of the BJP. The Congress has been saying that 2024 is a battle to save democracy. And Surat saw who is threatening democracy.

(This interview first appeared in Frontline)

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