‘Not naming CM candidate helped unite Cong’ | india | Hindustan Times
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‘Not naming CM candidate helped unite Cong’

The Congress' decision of not projecting a CM candidate may have given the BJP a major electoral issue, reports Nagendar Sharma.

india Updated: Dec 17, 2007 01:20 IST
Nagendar Sharma

The Congress' decision of not projecting a chief ministerial candidate in Gujarat may have given the BJP a major electoral issue, but Union Textiles Minister and the state party’s most visible face, Shankarsinh Vaghela, says it helped fight the misdeeds of the Narendra Modi government unitedly. He spoke to HT during his hectic campaign schedule:

The BJP and Chief Minister Narendra Modi, in particular, have attacked the Congress as a leaderless party in Gujarat.
The BJP is trying to take the people of Gujarat for granted. The leader is elected by the MLAs. How can you go and tell the people that the chief minister is already there and you merely have to give your stamp of approval? This is India and not America. People here first elect their representative who then in turn elect their leader to govern the state.

But all main Congress leaders, including state party chief Bharatsinh Solanki, leader of Opposition Arjun Modhvadia and Dinsha Patel who is contesting against Modi, are being described by their supporters as future chief ministers. So infighting is there?

The party focus is to defeat the authoritarian regime based on falsehood in the state. Nobody in the Congress is talking about projecting themselves. Supporters can talk, after all we are a democratic party. But the decision on chief ministership would be taken by elected MLAs in consultation with the party high command.

Don’t you think the Congress norm of not declaring a chief ministerial candidate harms party prospects, especially in a state like Gujarat, where the election is centered around a strong leader like Modi?

Strong or weak, that would be decided by the people of Gujarat. So far as the Congress practice of not declaring a chief ministerial candidate is concerned, it is in my view a healthy democratic norm. We have to first fight for party’s victory unitedly and then if we emerge victorious, we can then think about secondary issues.

Narendra Modi’s main campaigning plank has been development. He has asked voters to compare his five years with 45 years of Congress. Has your party been able to effectively counter him?

His developmental claims were a sham. If he was so confident about the development done by him, then why did he abruptly shift to Godhra and start abusing the Congress? His development was confined to five industrial houses and it was not for the people of Gujarat.

BJP had promised 1,000MW of electricity every year, but could not manage that even in five years. Instead of 24 hours electricity, farmers did not even get it for six hours everyday. If voted to power, we would look into all acts of omission and commission of this government, without any witch-hunt, but nobody found guilty would be spared.

What was the major difference you saw in campaigning between 2002 and 2007? The communally surcharged atmosphere that helped the BJP to score a resounding victory in 2002 was completely missing this time, and attempts by Narendra Modi to try similar tricks have been rebuffed by the electorate. This was the reason that forced him to shift from development to terrorism overnight and make all sorts of wild statements on fake encounters, which too, he retracted later.

But there is a feeling among NGOs and secular groups that Congress was shying away from attacking Modi for his communal plank?

Fact remains it is only the Congress that has fought against Modi and BJP’s communalism in Gujarat. We would not allow anyone to go scot-free. Justice would be done.