‘We have been able to effectively expose the BJP’s misgovernance in Gujarat and their failure on multiple fronts’

We just want to remain focussed on day-to-day issues like corruption, non-delivery of governance, unemployment and price rise, and that goes very well with the voters, says the senior Congress leader

Updated - November 29, 2022 08:42 pm IST

Published - November 28, 2022 10:36 pm IST

Ramesh Chennithala. File

Ramesh Chennithala. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu photo library

Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala is the chairman of the party’s screening committee for the selection of candidates for the Assembly election in Gujarat. He has been travelling across the State to campaign as well as oversee the election management. He speaks about the Congress’ strategy, how the candidates were selected, the party’s campaign, and the challenges it faced.

Why is there no visibility of the Congress in the campaign this election?

I don’t agree with the view that we are not visible. But this time, we decided to focus more on ground-level campaigning, door-to-door contacts, strengthening booth-level management, and direct contact with voters or electorate. And that is working on the ground. Also, our local connect with voters is going to help during the voting. In a low-key campaign, we have been able to effectively expose the BJP’s misgovernance and their failure on multiple fronts. For example, during our ground-level campaign, we talk about COVID-19 mismanagement in the State and people have also been receptive. We just want to remain focussed on day- to-day governance issues like corruption, non-delivery of governance, unemployment and price rise, and that goes very well with the voters. Also, that’s what perturbs the BJP because we talk about local issues that everyone is concerned about. We will not be distracted from this focussed campaign.

Tell us about the strategy over selection of candidates...

This time, we considered all factors keeping in mind caste and social composition of the constituency, winnability, the candidate’s profile and loyalty to the party. We have given emphasis on choosing local candidates who have connect with the constituents in the area. Also, another factor we considered was whether the candidates fit in the social base of the party in the area. We dropped as many as 10 sitting MLAs and fielded young and fresh faces. We have given adequate representation to OBCs, tribals, SCs and other castes. Almost 60% of our candidates are below 50 years, which means a lot of young and new faces. And you must have noticed that there are hardly any grievances regarding candidate selection compared with BJP, where the party has suspended over two dozen leaders for anti-party activities, and several sitting MLAs, ex-MLAs and senior leaders are contesting as Independents. For the first time, BJP is facing rebellion in over a dozen seats in the State. In our case, our candidate selection was smooth. We did not face any sort of large-scale revolt by the workers and even sitting MLAs who have been dropped. 

More than 20 Congress MLAs left the party and defected to the ruling party since the last Assembly election in 2017. Why has that happened?

This is shocking by any standards. There is absolutely no justification for such a large-scale defection. First of all, I will ask why the BJP has to borrow our leaders and legislators? The BJP is in power for over two decades and yet they have to get our legislators defected with the use of money and muscle power. This is really a shameful act and lacks any moral value. This time, in the candidate selection process, I stressed loyalty factor and the party’s high command also agreed that no aaya ram, gaya ram (political turncoats) should be encouraged. In fact, when I travelled across the State, at many places, people told me that there should a law prohibiting turncoats from contesting election for five years. 

What are the promises the party is making to attract voters in Gujarat? 

In campaigning, we are focusing on day-to-day governance issues. In our manifesto, we have made 10 promises or commitments like large-scale recruitment in the government for employment, providing free power, gas cylinders at ₹500, subsidy to dairy farmers, free education, setting up new English medium schools, etc. The BJP leaders talk about the ‘Gujarat model’ but where is the model? There are no roads, no power for irrigation, no medical centres and hospitals and no employment in villages. There is no development in the villages in any part of the State. There are massive vacancies in the government, hospitals and health centres and in schools in Gujarat. We are talking about basic governance and that riles the BJP leaders. 

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