INTERVIEW | Gujarat 2017

Congress has never excluded Patidars: Bharatsinh Solanki

Gujarat Congress leader Bharatsinh Solanki. File

Gujarat Congress leader Bharatsinh Solanki. File   | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji

Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee president Bharatsinh Solanki, who is leading the high-decibel Congress campaign, speaks about the party’s attempts at social engineering, Rahul Gandhi’s visits to temples and why he is not contesting in these elections.

The BJP has accused you of outsourcing your campaign to Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mewani rather than stick with the Congress’s own leaders. Your response.

The Congress has not outsourced the campaign. Our leader and the country’s most popular leader Rahul Gandhi is at the forefront of our campaign.

The boys you refer to [Patidar leader Hardik Patel, OBC leader Alpesh Thakore and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani] are the youth of Gujarat; they hail from the State and they have been agitating about important issues affecting society. We support them on these issues and the need to fight the government wholeheartedly on these issues.

Your father (former Chief Minister Madhavsinh Solanki) was the architect of the winning Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim (KHAM) combination for the Congress in the 1980s, with no place for Patidars. Now with Hardik Patel, can we consider this the end of KHAM or a reinvention?

Please allow me to correct you. My father was not the architect of KHAM — it was Zinabhai Garji and Sanat Mehta who came up with it. Also, the Congress did not exclude Patidars — it’s a canard spread by the BJP. If that had been the case why would we have won massive victories as we did in 1972, when we won 140 seats? In 1980, we got 141 seats; in 1985 with the support of the Patidars, we got 149.

The highest the BJP got under Narendra Modi was 122 in 2002.

So we got votes from all sections of aam aadmi (common people). There were a number of Patidar Ministers in Madhavsinh Solanki’s government.

The Opposition has accused you of running a caste-based campaign rather than on development issues...

Let me tell you that when [BJP president] Amit Shah resigned his Assembly seat after being elected to the Rajya Sabha, he made a public statement saying that this election will be fought on Narmada waters [Sardar Sarovar project] and the OBC card. What is this OBC card, pray? Isn’t it casteism?

The Congress is fighting these elections on the following main issues — employment for youth, affordable education for all, housing for all (Ghar nu ghar), affordable healthcare for all, farmers’ loan waiver, equal work-equal pay, human development index, increase in happiness index [khush rahey Gujarat].

Why have you chosen not to contest these polls?

I was Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president in 2006 and when the 2007 elections were announced. Then too I didn’t fight the polls.

As State unit chief, I will campaign in all 182 Assembly constituencies.

There has been a lot of attention on Rahul Gandhi’s visit to many temples and the small number of Muslim candidates fielded by the party. Is the Congress playing the soft Hindutva card?

Going to temples praying for the welfare of the people of Gujarat, for peace and prosperity is a good thing in my view.

I can see though that Rahulji’s visit to temples has rattled the BJP which is doing everything it can to raise questions around it.

These people [the BJP] who have been unsuccessfully going on about constructing a Ram temple for many years are now questioning Rahulji’s visits which are a matter of faith.

At the time of the Rajya Sabha elections in August, 15 Congress MLAs left the party and now seven of them are fighting in strong Congress seats on BJP ticket. How do you propose to redress the situation?

Let me tell you, not a single one of them will win. These are traditional Congress seats and will remain with us.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 8:17:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/gujarat-2017/congress-has-never-excluded-patidars/article21250506.ece

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