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Sunday, December 08, 2019

Echoes in South Gujarat: Congress must ‘connect’

The Congress drew a blank in Gujarat in 2014. This time, the party is looking to wrest a few seats from the BJP, especially in rural regions of southern Gujarat.

Written by Krishn Kaushik | Anand, Surat, Vadodara | Published: April 24, 2019 3:20:19 am
Gujarat, Gujarat elections, Gujarat voting, gandhinagar seta, Lok sabha elections, rahul gandhi, amit shah, general elections, election news, decision 2019, lok sabha elections 2019, indian express Voters at a polling booth in Vadodara, Tuesday. (Express photo by Bhupendra Rana)

From factionalism to disconnect between cadres and leadership and lack of candidates winning people’s confidence — these are some of the reasons put forward by people in south Gujarat for the Congress’s repeated defeats in the area.

The Congress drew a blank in Gujarat in 2014. This time, the party is looking to wrest a few seats from the BJP, especially in rural regions of southern Gujarat.

All 26 seats in the state voted on Tuesday.

A Congress MLA from this region said that factionalism in the party was a major reason for its poor performance in recent elections. A student leader from NSUI also shared this view. Both said that the limited cadre of the party is often divided, until just before polls.

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The NSUI leader pointed out another factor: “lack of connect of party workers with (Congress president) Rahul Gandhi”. The MLA agreed, but added, “His image has improved considerably.”

Several industry leaders in the region, including in the BJP stronghold of Surat, had similar views. A leader of South Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SGCCI) said that when they met Rahul recently, he came across as a “sensible” leader, very different from his projected image. However, he was not yet a challenger to Modi, they added. A textile businessman said the Congress’s biggest failure in the region was being unable put up a tough challenge to the BJP.

Many business leaders said they were willing to vote for the Congress, but they needed a local face who would win their confidence. “It is not the BJP’s talent but Congress’s failure” that they could not win a single seat in Surat in Assembly elections by riding the effects of demonetisation and GST among the business community, the textile businessman said. “They need to win people’s trust” by selecting a good candidate, he added.

A leader of SGCCI said that many like him were upset with the BJP, but not with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The only negative they saw in Modi was that “like he did in Gujarat, he has not created a second-rung leadership at the Centre”, the SGCCI leader said. “We are willing to give Congress a chance. But it does not have any presence, any leader here.”

The seats of Vadodara and Surat, the urban constituencies, are seen as strongholds of the ruling party. In 2014, the BJP candidates in the two seats in Surat — Surat and Navsari — won by margins of more than 5 lakh each.

For BJP supporters like diamond trader Anil Mehta and textile trader Ankit Tiwari, Modi is the sole reason for their support. When asked about the reason, they shot back, “What is there to not like?”

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