Rahul Gandhi woos youth and farmers as he kick-starts Gujarat election campaign

Updated on Sep 25, 2017 08:26 PM IST

Rahul Gandhi criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Gujarat model of development, and the government’s decisions like demonetisation and GST.

Rahul Gandhi sips tea with an Ahir family at Hanjrapar village on Monday during the first day of his Navsarjan Yatra. (HT Photo)
Rahul Gandhi sips tea with an Ahir family at Hanjrapar village on Monday during the first day of his Navsarjan Yatra. (HT Photo)
Hindustan Times, Dwarka/Jamnagar | By, Dwarka/jamnagar

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi took a dig on Monday at the ‘Gujarat model’ of development on the first day of his three-day Navsarjan Yatra in the poll-bound state as he reached out to farmers, youth, and traders in decades-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) bastion of Saurashtra.

A ride on a bullock cart, Uttar Pradesh-like khat (a traditional string cot) sabhas at Hanjrapar and a meeting with school children at Handana remained the highlights of the day.

Gandhi’s first stop was Baradiya, a village located 8km from Dwarka was lined up with banners and hoardings by the party for his welcome, where he shook hands with the waiting crowd and exchanged a few words with the people.

“Be it UP, Rajasthan or Gujarat, the youth is jobless. Modiji had promised two crore jobs. The youth of the country showed faith thinking the promise will be delivered but did not happen,” said Gandhi standing at the gate of the specially done up luxury bus equipped with CCTV cameras at Bhatia, where he delivered his first speech.

Rahul Gandhi sits with a family at Hanjrapar village on Monday during the first day of his Navsarjan Yatra. (HT Photo)
Rahul Gandhi sits with a family at Hanjrapar village on Monday during the first day of his Navsarjan Yatra. (HT Photo)

“I asked this question from the government in Parliament. I got the answer that in the entire country, so far the NDA government has created 1 lakh jobs. Daily 30,000 new job seekers are out looking for employment but only 400 get job,’’ he said.

He then asked the crowd whether they get a fair price for their groundnut crop. The crowd’s response was in a negative.

“Last year, Modiji implemented demonetisation. I don’t know why it was done. I want to ask you all, do you pay by credit card? Are you paid by mobile money? But Modiji took that decision without consulting anyone,” Gandhi said as he hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the step that experts said affected farmers the most.

“As you all know, this government in Delhi works only for five to six big companies. These companies get all the benefits like land, electricity and water. This is the Gujarat model,” he said.

He also attacked the Centre for implementing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) “in a haste” without proper planning, saying the new tax regime has hit small traders hard.

Before wrapping at his up his first halt, Gandhi said if the Congress is voted to power, it will be a government of “youth, farmers and poor’’. “We deliver what we promise,” he said.

At Hanjrapar, he sat down on a khat as some farmers gleefully clicked pictures with him. He was also seen taking a sip of tea from a chaliyu (kind of a bow) with locals.

“Traditional chaliyu is used to drink milk. But we were told that Rahulji would prefer tea. So, he was served tea in a chaliyu,’’ said Pal Ambaliya, whose house Gandhi visited for tea.

He answered eight questions raised by the locals, who asked him about crop insurance and agriculture land mapping.

“Land is being taken and given to industrialists if they want it. Do you get water? But industries do get water,’’he said addressing the farmers.

Answering to a question by a local woman, who complained that only two out of the four teachers are left at the village schools, Gandhi said privatisation of education by the BJP has made education expensive for the laymen.

The decision to launch the campaign from politically crucial Saurashtra, which sends 58 MLAs to the 182-member assembly, is seen as a cultivated strategy to court the Patidar community and other backward class (OBC) electorate.

Picking Saurashtra that has been a stronghold of the ruling BJP for almost three decades to launch the party campaign is important in more than one way.

The two communities, which form the core of the BJP support base in the state, have given some jitters to the ruling party over separate issues in the last couple of years. While the Patidars are up in arms against the BJP government seeking reservation, OBCs are not willing to share their quota of benefits.

Besides wooing the disgruntled communities, the Congress has a task at hand to control the damage inflicted by the resignation of its MLAs.

The Congress, which lost 14 of its MLAs before the Rajya Sabha election in August, has planned the yatra route in a way that Gandhi can reach out to Patidars that in areas of leaders who has recently left the party to join the BJP.

Gandhi is likely to visit Morbi, the region’s worst-affected town during the 2015 Patidar stir.

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    Hiral Dave is Senior Assistant Editor based out of Ahmedabad and covers developments in Gujarat. She has sixteen years of working in the field of journalism.

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