The real issue is economy, not Ram Mandir: Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh

Poornima Joshi Jamshedpur | Updated on December 06, 2019

Panelist Prof Gourav Vallabh   -  PTI

From the Chief Minister Raghubar Das’ constituency, the Congress has fielded Gourav Vallabh, a party spokesperson and Professor of Finance in the Xavier School of Management (XLRI). Vallabh makes his debut in politics with a focus largely on economic issues. In an interview to BusinessLine, the Congress candidate talked about the impact of economic slowdown in the iconic industrial city of Jamshedpur, the frequent closures and job losses and the CM’s inability to invest either in industry or health and education. Excerpts:

The CM has won five times from Jamshedpur (East). What makes you think you can wrest this seat from him?

This constituency is a microcosm of what has gone wrong in India under the BJP’s regime. You can sense the economic slowdown, especially the dire straits that the auto sector is in, from the closure of hundreds of small and medium industrial units supplying material to Tata Motors. Tata Motors itself will enforce block closures once the election is through. A company like Tata Hitachi has shifted out of Jamshedpur to Kharagpur in West Bengal. In the last 25 years, the representative of this constituency has been promising every year that he will restart the units that had shut down — Agrico, Cable Company. But it has remained a promise. In the last four months in the Adityapur industrial area, 700 small, medium enterprises have closed down and more than 30,000 workers have lost their jobs.

Are you anywhere in the reckoning in this triangular fight between CM and another formidable candidate, the BJP rebel and Minister Saryu Rai?

I am talking about real issues and getting a lot of popular response. There is no rebel here; I am fighting two BJP candidates. One is an official, which is the CM himself, and the other is unofficial, his Cabinet colleague Saryu Rai who has not yet resigned from the primary membership of the BJP. But that doesn’t bother me because I am used to fighting BJP and their proxies in innumerable debates where they put up their official spokespersons and one proxy identifying himself as expert on finance/foreign affairs/security or sometimes all of these subjects.

The truth is that the unauthorised candidate had started out by telling everyone that he would contest both from Jamshedpur (East) and Jamshedpur (West). But when my candidature was announced, the authorised BJP candidate called the unauthorised candidate of the BJP and asked him to contest from Jamshedpur (East) and split the votes. Now all that they want to talk about is each other and Ram Mandir, whereas the real issue is that the State government has shut down 14,000 schools. About 393 government schools have been shut down in Jamshedpur alone. The only large government hospital in this region, the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (MGM) hospital, does not even offer even basic amenities and health facilities to poor patients.

The campaign pitch of the BJP includes Ram Mandir and Article 370 which the PM himself has been talking about in his public rallies. Is that an issue?

They are talking about Ram Mandir here, whereas the issues here are — 86 unauthorised colonies that have not been regularised for 25 years, health, education, contractualisation of labour, job losses. Shutting down of Cable Company has affected around 10,000 people in Jamshedpur. Unions have been fighting for re-opening of this company but there has been no support from the government. There is no good degree college in Jamshedpur. Students have to travel up to Patna, Ranchi, Kolkata. There is Xavier School of Management (XlRI) but that is not for everyone. But the BJP has mastered the art of obfuscation.

Published on December 06, 2019

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