At Birsa Nagar in Jamshedpur East Assembly segment, Congress candidate and party spokesperson Gourav Vallabh is out for canvassing. As he goes into shops and meets people, his supporters introduce him as “Trillion wale bhaiyya” — a reference to his question to BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra on a TV show on the number of zeroes in a trillion.
The 42-year-old faculty member of XLRI Xavier School of Management is contesing polls for the first time and is up against two heavyweights — BJP nominee and Chief Minister Raghubar Das and BJP veteran Sarayu Roy who is contesting as an Independent.
The announcement of Vallabh’s candidature appears to have invigorated the Congress cadre at a time when infighting in the state party unit threatens to harm its poll prospects. Asked about the factionalism in the party, Vallabh says he is not affected, “I am just doing my work and focusing on the strategy.”
A first-generation politician who joined the Congress in January 2018, Vallabh has an illustrious academic career. Before joining the Xavier School of Management in 2003, he worked as a Research Officer and Faculty at National Institute of Bank Management — a think tank set up by RBI. He has been a visiting faculty at 20 institutes in India and abroad. The Xavier School of Management’s website mentions his qualification as a Certified Financial Risk Manager (Global Association of Risk Professionals, US), Chartered Accountant (ICAI), Company Secretary (ICSI), and a doctorate in credit risk assessment from University of Rajasthan.
But will his career achievements help his poll prospects? Vallabh says he is “confident”. “Everyone wants good people in politics,” he says. “A politician promises something and does not live up to it. This is not good for a healthy democracy… I intend to serve the people and live up to the promises I make…” he says.
The five-phase Assembly polls in Jharkhand began November 30. Polling in Jamshedpur East is on December 7.
Up against formidable opponents like Das and Roy, Vallabh says, “My planning would not be the same as other seasoned politicians, but I am getting good inputs from a lot of people, including the young ones… Jamshedpur has an educated, cosmopolitan crowd and I am more confident now.”
Hailing from Rajasthan, Vallabh has been is Jamshedpur for the last 16 years and says he has an “emotional connect” with the city.
Vallabh says Chief Minister Das should give an audit of work done by his government in the last five years. “I am ready for a debate in a short notice of an hour. Education, health, jobs are in a shambles,” he says.
Asked when he decided to join politics, Vallabh replies that one of his students once questioned him on his contribution for the underprivileged and that was when he decided that he must join politics.
“Till then my contribution was narrow, then I thought that politics is one field where I can contribute enough and I dived in,” he adds.
Vallabh says he joined the Congress because it “stands for a liberal society, has intellectual honesty and promotes free thinking”.
“I deliberately don’t write my surname because I don’t believe in caste structures. I perform pooja daily and can recite Ramcharitmanas, but it does not mean I will impose my belief on others,” he says.