The Congress in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home turf is out of power since 1989 and despite all the efforts it could not dislodge the BJP which is ruling the state since then except when Shankar Singh Vaghela formed a government with the help of Congress for a brief period.
The party is out of power as in UP, but has the flickering hope that it is still a main challenger to the BJP in Gujarat while AAP is trying to make inroads into the state. In 2017 elections, the Congress showed up well but could not reach the magic figure and later its MLAs walked into the BJP fold. But in 2019 general elections, BJP swept the polls and the Congress could now win even a single seat.
To counter AAP and BJP, the Congress has been given a new team with state in-charge Raghu Sharma, Koli leader and former Lok Sabha member Jagdish Thakor as State President.
Former state president Arjun Modwadia says, “AAP is not a big challenge but the BJP is, and we have to fight on the perception front that only Congress could defeat BJP. The party will launch a series of agitations to highlight failures of the BJP.”
Top Congress leaders of Gujarat had a marathon meeting with former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and held a detailed discussion regarding the upcoming assembly elections in Gujarat which are likely to be held in December next year.
In order to launch a joint attack on the BJP the Congress has roped in Hardik Patel who has raked up Patidar issue raising the pending demands related to agitation in 2015. Patel has reiterated his earlier demands about various pending issues related to the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS).
Patel, who is the working president of Gujarat Congress, has justified his and the PAAS’ demands for reservation for the Patidar community established by the very fact that the state government and the Centre had made provisions to give reservation to the poor and backward classes and 10 per cent quota for the economically backward upper castes.
As many as 438 cases were registered during the Patidar reservation movement which started in Gujarat in July 2015. Fourteen Patidar youths lost their lives during that movement.
“After the PAAS agitation, the Gujarat government’s home department had promised to withdraw 391 cases, but this assurance has not been kept yet,” Hardik Patel said in a letter to Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel.
The Congress, which posed a tough challenge to the BJP in in last assembly elections, was decimated in the 2021 municipality polls as BJP had swept the state, but surprisingly the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made inroads in Gujarat’s urban centres which is a bigger threat for the Congress. Securing 27 seats in the Gujarat Municipal elections held in February, AAP national head and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said the people of Gujarat have voted for politics of performance as they were fed up with the politics of BJP and the Congress.
Meanwhile, BJP has changed its entire team in the state to counter the anti-incumbency factor and after the recently concluded elections in October, the BJP won the Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation (GMC) elections. The BJP also won in two other civic bodies in Gujarat, Okha and Thara municipalities.
After the GMC win, Prime Minister Modi had said, “Results of the local body polls across Gujarat and Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation reaffirm the deep-rooted bond between the people of Gujarat and the BJP. Gratitude to the people for repeatedly blessing us. Kudos to all BJP Gujarat Karyakartas for working hard at the grassroots.”
The BJP has now a strong grip over the state which became a launch-pad for Modi’s Delhi win but the Congress wants this state very much to send a message before the big elections in the country.