Ahead of the by-election to eight seats in the state, in an exclusive interview with Asianet Newsable, Gujarat's young Congress leader and working president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee exuded confidence about the party coming to power in 2022. He said Congress is confident of winning six out of eight seats in the November 3 by-election and will not destabilize Vijay Rupani's government and instead focus on 2022 election.
Q: What will be Congress' strategy and how confident are you about the fate of eight defectors in the upcoming Gujarat by-elections?
Hardik Patel: See, in Gujarat, important issues such as unemployment, farmers' (distress) are the biggest concern this election. All Congress candidates are educated. We will win 6 out of 8 seats. At ground level, we speak on practical issues. We have done the right thing by speaking about local issues rather than national issues, like roads, water, farmers' issues, electricity issues and we are working towards it. We have fielded educated candidates before the voters. Few have done MBA, few have done MBBS someone has done B.Sc who can understand farmers issue and experience, so we have fielded many youths before the voters.
Q: Will Covid-19 become an issue in Gujarat too?
Hardik Patel: The COVID-19 pandemic brought out the health issues to the fore and with BJP in power for the last 25 years, there is not a single hospital with basic facilities, sufficient doctors due to which many people died. Hence, apart from local issues, coronavirus which also exposed a weak health system, are also being highlighted.
Q: There have been speculations that Congress always revolves around the Gandhi family, what do you have to say?
Hardik Patel: This is Gujarat and the bond between Gujarat and Gandhis is very much intact. Mahatma Gandhiji was there and his qualities were imbibed by Indiraji (Indira Gandhi, former PM) and Indiraji's son also has done a lot of good work for the nation.
Hence, the Gandhi family and Gujarat share a longstanding relationship which Narendra Modi (PM) time and again talks about the relationship (PM Modi taunts Gandhis). So in reality the Gandhi family shares a relationship with Gujarat and Gujarat voters love the Gandhi family and also trusts them.
Q: Do Gujarat voters express confidence about the Gandhi family?
Hardik Patel: BJP destabilizes the government through money power. BJP toppled the government based on money and unconstitutional measures. Gujarat voters have faith in the Gandhi family. The way Indiraji and Rajivji gave a new dimension to the country; immediately after India's independence, Jawaharlal Nehru strengthened the nation, so naturally, the nation feels proud of him.
Q: A lot of leaders rebelled against Gandhis, accusing them of always being at the helm of affairs. Should a non-Gandhi or Gandhi loyalist head the party? What is your opinion on Rahul Gandhi?
Hardik Patel: This is the party's decision, as far as my personal opinion goes, Rahulji (Rahul Gandhi) can prepare the party better because he has got the 'vision' and 'ideas'. He does not have greed for power, he walks by politics of 'vision' and we like that. I came into the party with the thought that here is a person (Rahul Gandhi) who has no arrogance and who can strengthen the party and can also bring out a vision for the nation. In our nation why is it that we don't like educated people? Today, why do chase behind people like Raghuram Raja (former RBI governor) or someone else?
People who are educated are the ones who can take the nation forward, right? During Manmohan Singh (Former PM) government, the nation's education was good, people were employed, the nation survived recession period. Hence the nation needs educated people like Manmohan Singh to lead us.
Q: There were allegations against you that you purchased tickets for leaders from your camp?
Hardik Patel: BJP is so smart, if I had even Rs 1 lakh black money, they would have got the IT and ED raids conducted. They speak about crores of rupees allegation, let them get their ED and IT to conduct raids and put me behind bars if I have black money or if I have earned through illegal means. I should have been arrested by now, they simple accuse. If they (BJP) want to defame anyone they will bring in money issues, like the way they defamed Rahulji, Soniaji, Robert Vadra (Priyanka Gandhi's husband), Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, so whoever they want to defame, they use the money trick. They (BJP) themselves are corrupt but malign others.
Q: Recently, you and MLA Jignesh Mewani were put under house arrest. What is your take on this?
Hardik Patel: BJP fears youths like us and hence keep harassing us, file cases against us, send us to jail. But we have decided to fight for Gujarat's 6.5 crore people, become their voice and strengthen them so that they get their basic rights. Our only agenda is to ensure the state's youths get decent earnings, good education and each poor gets basic facilities, farmers get good income and rates for their produce and get subsidy on the seeds.
Q: How far did your Patidar movement help? Does the movement still have an impact on election results?
Hardik Patel: Because of our efforts, 10% reservation was implemented across India. This was not only for Patels but also for the poor who have benefitted today. They (BJP) hoped for 150 plus but got stuck at 99 seats. Congress has now become a formidable Opposition and no leader is restricted to one community. We raised our voice only for one community but other communities also benefitted by getting reservation not only in one aspect but in employment and education sectors.
Q: Now that you are confident of winning six seats and in case fortune favors Congress, will you plan to destabilize the government and come to power?
Hardik Patel: No! We will form our government in 2022 and we are preparing for 2022 at ground level as our target for 2022 will be 125 plus seats. We will form a Congress government then.
Q: In Gujarat particularly, there is not even a single CM candidate, so are you also one among the contenders?
Hardik Patel: I told the party will decide. I am only 26 years and I am a fighter. For me posts will not matter, but only people's voice will matter.
Last Updated 31, Oct 2020, 2:59 PM