National

‘We will pass resolution in Assembly for Patel reservation’

Poornima Joshi Ahmedabad | Updated on January 27, 2018

BHARATSINH SOLANKI President, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee

Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki on how party will meet Hardik Patel’s demand



Bharatsinh Solanki, president of Gujarat Congress, has a legacy issue. He is the son of the former Chief Minister Madhavsinh Solanki, whose record of securing 149 out of 182 seats for the Congress in the 1985 Assembly elections remains unsurpassed. But this victory firmly branded the Congress as a party of the Kshatriya Harijan Adivasi and Muslim (KHAM) communities. At a time when the State is mired in multiple agitations for reservation by the Patels and a counter-mobilisation by the Kshatriyas, the Congress’ KHAM ties pose a contradiction. It is supporting the demand for Patidar reservation by Hardik Patel as also the counter agitation by the Kshatriyas symbolised by young Alpesh Thakore, who has joined the Congress.

In an interview to BusinessLine, Bharatsinh explained how the Congress is providing a political platform for all these contrary demands and, for the first time, clearly stated that the party supports reservation for Patels. Excerpts:



You have lost to the BJP consistently since 1998. What makes you think you can win this time?

The fundamental change is that for years, Mr (Narendra) Modi used to blame the Central government, the UPA specifically, for everything that was going wrong in Gujarat. Now he himself is at the helm of affairs at the Centre. Who is he going to blame now for the mess that he has created in Gujarat? There is 22 years of anti-incumbency and misrule, corruption and an arrogant government in Gujarat. There is a visible lack of State leadership. Anandiben Patel failed miserably. Her replacement as Chief Minister, Vijay Rupani, is performing even worse. The stress level of Gujaratis has increased. Earlier, only the troubles of the farmers were being highlighted. Now it is clear that in all these years, unemployment has increased. Small and medium traders have suffered because of demonetisation, GST and there is rampant corruption. The people of Gujarat have been taken for granted, they feel that the BJP believes that it can do what it likes and they, the people, are in the pocket of the BJP. They can be used and treated in whatever manner they deem fit.



Gujarat is a highly urbanised State and the Congress has consistently failed to win in urban areas. Do you have a plan to attract voters in urban areas?

There is a strategy in place for urban areas. We will highlight issues important — price rise, GST chaos, unemployment, sanitation, pollution, traffic, lack of education and health facilities. This time, we will fare much better than before. You can see the trend from local elections, where they spent over ₹250 crore when our expenditure was only ₹18 crore. Even then we won. We estimate that they may spend over ₹5,000 crore in the Assembly elections. The BJP will even try to ensure bogus voting and election malpractices. But this election is between the BJP and people of Gujarat. The Congress is supporting and backing the people of Gujarat.



You are wooing Hardik Patel and the Patidars who are demanding reservation. How do you balance this against your image as a largely KHAM party?

This time, the Patidars are strongly with us. KHAM is a forgotten, irrelevant and misunderstood phenomenon of the past. This election is about Navsarjan Gujarat.



Will you give reservation to Patels?

Yes, we have said categorically that we will give reservation to Patidars. The Constitution can be changed. The Constitution itself contains a provision for changes. We will pass a resolution in the State Assembly once we form the government.

We will forward it to Parliament. The government at the Centre belongs to the BJP. They may or may not accept it. But even if the BJP does not agree, when the Congress forms the government at the Centre in 2019, we will resolve this issue in the Supreme Court.



Will Rahul Gandhi and Hardik campaign together?

Hardik may meet Rahul. I am not sure whether there will be joint rallies. Hardik may support from outside. We support any movement which is democratic, for justice and for the good of the people of Gujarat. Today, the BJP is left with Asaduddin Owaisi and AAP. Owaisi will come here and Amit Shah will distribute his tickets.



The BJP is much more organised and disciplined in comparison. There is always internal bickering in the Congress over ticket distribution etc...

The BJP is hoping that we will fight among ourselves over tickets. But we are hearing everyone out, we want to ensure that ticket distribution is done in a fair manner and the deserving candidates get tickets. The BJP’s agenda is to only polarise the people on communal lines. They can throw their money at people, they can try and divide the people on communal lines, they can try and engineer a fight within the Congress.

But none of it will work this time because people have decided to vote them out. The Congress has created room for everyone. This is not about caste but more about unemployment, farmers’ issues, demonetisation, GST. Casteism is over because the Patels are asking the Congress for tickets, so are the upper caste and the Prajapatis.



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Published on October 31, 2017
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