Two Days after the BJP retained power in Gujarat, several workers of the Congress on Wednesday said the party’s support for Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel led to “polaristation” of tribal, Dalit and OBC voters against it in many constituencies. Congress leaders and workers — on the first day of the three-day ‘chintan shivir (introspection camp)’ in Mehsana — claimed the BJP in the run-up to the Assembly elections managed to portray that the Congress’s promise of providing reservation to the Patidars would affect quotas for tribals, Dalits and OBCs, if implemented.
They said “the BJP propaganda” had adversely impacted fate of the Congress in the Assembly elections.During the chitan shivir, Congress leaders and workers will analyse the election results district-wise and discuss the roadmap for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Among those who interacted with Congress workers and local leaders from 20 districts on Wednesday were state party president Bharatsinh Solanki and Gujarat affairs in-charge Ashok Gehlot. Leaders from the rest of the state would take part in the camp on Thursday.
The Congress workers and leaders also alleged that the BJP used “corrupt and unfair means” to win the just concluded Assembly polls. Some of them also alleged “manipulation” of EVMs by the BJP and demanded use of ballot papers instead. Several Congress leaders, including those who lost the elections, alleged that the BJP misused the “official machinery’’ and its “money power’’ to influence electorates in favour of the BJP candidates.
The leaders in individual submissions said that BJP candidates spent a large amount of money in supplying liquor, disbursement of cash and also “saris” to virtually “buy voters” on the eve of the polling in the first as well as the second phase of the elections. A Congress leader from Dahod district said BJP leaders in a tribal-dominated constituency distributed Rs 1000 per voter to ensure polling in favour of the BJP candidate. Another party leader from Mehmedabad said that BJP leaders distributed “saris” among the women voters three days before the second phase of polling. Some leaders from Mehsana alleged that a senior BJP leader not only used his “money power” to influence voters, but also threatened them with dire consequences if they vote against him.
The Congress workers and district leaders also pointed out lack of financial resources and party’s infrastructure at the grassroots as a major hurdle in mobilising voters and taking them to polling booths.
After interacting with party workers, Solanki said the “overall perception of the Congress leaders was that corrupt and unfair means were used in winning the elections”.
In the Assembly elections, the results for which were declared on Monday, the Congress could not wrest power from the BJP even though its tally increased to 77 seats from 61 last time. The BJP retained power for the sixth time with a reduced strength of 99 seats in the 182-member House against 115 in 2012.
Gehlot expressed satisfaction over performance of the Congress in the polls, even as he echoed the allegation the BJP of “misusing government machinery” during the elections.
“Both in terms of seats and campaigning, the Congress performed wonderfully well. Although we could not form the government, a message has been sent across that the BJP can have a tough time fighting the Congress even in the home state of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and (BJP president) Amit Shah,” said Gehlot. “The way the BJP campaigned involving cabinet ministers with the prime minister himself making emotional appeals, the way they misused government machinery for polls, and the manner the Election Commission took decisions, we believe we have done exceedingly well,” he said.
Senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, who lost from Mandvi in Kutch district, said the party could have formed government had it won 16 seats on which it got defeated by narrow margins. However, he took solace in the fact that the BJP was reduced to “double-digits” despite an aggressive campaigning.
Rahul to join camp on Saturday
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who had led the party campaign in Gujarat, would be attending the chintan shivir on Saturday and not on Friday, as announced earlier. The venue for the concluding day of the camp has also been shifted from Saffrony Resort in Mehsana to the Gujarat University Convention Hall in Ahmedabad. Rahul will hold separate meetings with leaders and representatives from north Gujarat, south Gujarat, central Gujarat and Saurashtra-Kutch regions from 10 am to 4 am. There will be no chintan shivir on Friday.