4 Key Takeaways From Rahul Gandhi’s 3-Day Visit to Gujarat

Lack of jobs, agricultural distress, Patels & Patidhars: Rahul Gandhi sets the Congress’ poll agenda.

3 min read

The December 2017 Gujarat election is as good an opportunity as it can get for the Congress to regain lost ground in the state.

PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah are fighting the economic fallout of demonetisation; GST has adversely impacted small scale industries in the state; and Patidhar leaders like Hardik Patel are still brewing a rebellion. Most importantly, for the BJP, this will be the first assembly election the party will fight without Modi as its chief ministerial candidate.

Fresh from his US tour, which generated positive buzz, Rahul Gandhi embarked on a three-day tour of Gujarat to kickstart the Congress’ election campaign.

Here are the key issues the Congress president-in-waiting raked up to target the BJP in the state.

1. Unemployment Figures

Speaking to the media after offering prayers at the Dwarkadhish Temple, Rahul said that the primary concern of the government should be getting its youth jobs.

“The Prime Minister had said that he would provide jobs to two crore youth every year. We asked the concerned minister in the Parliament that how many jobs did you provide to youths this year. The reply was: the BJP led Centre could only provide one lakh jobs to the youth in one year,” he said .

“Every day, 30,000 youth search for a job and the government provides jobs to only 400 youths. The youth of this country wants to contribute in the development of the nation but the BJP led NDA government doesn’t provide them jobs,” he added.

2. Agricultural Distress

The Congress Vice-President slammed what he called the government’s delayed and inadequate measures to provide relief to ground nut farmers. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had announced procurement of groundnut at a rate of Rs 900 per 20 kg as against the prevailing market price of Rs 600-650 per 20 kg.

He was also critical of demonetisation as a measure meant to help the rich convert their black money into white. “Do farmers use digital payments?” Rahul Gandhi asked as he tore into the “Gujarat developmental model”.

3. A More Progressive Stance?

In aggressive political posturing, Rahul Gandhi equated the RSS to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. “RSS is a very effective loudspeaker and there are 2-3 other loudspeakers like them. In Egypt there is Muslim Brotherhood. Both believe they know everything, and they only transmit their views (sic),” he said.

Journalist Bilal Zaidi analyses the statement as an attempt by the Congress leadership to distance itself from vote bank politics, at least in Gujarat. He writes:

The Muslim Brotherhood, or the Ikhwan as it is known in the Middle East and North African region, is considered a hardline Muslim outfit that propagates a radical view of Islam. Ousted President Mohammad Morsi belonged to the outfit and was removed during a military coup. Al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri was associated with the movement at one point.

The organisation has a large following globally among Muslims who look at it from the lens of identity, including many organisations in India that are ideologically aligned. Some of these organisations have traditionally supported the Congress party during elections in the past. So did Rahul Gandhi deliberately distance himself from these organisations by equating RSS with the Muslim Brotherhood? If this by any chance is true, then it’s clear that the Congress is looking to respond to allegations of vote-bank politics, at least in the state of Gujarat.

4. Patels & Patidhars

Rahul Gandhi invoked Sardar Patel as he tried to woo a section of the community which is disgruntled with the BJP government in the state.

“It was you (the Patel community) who gave the country Sardar Patel. But the BJP government committed atrocities on you. Bullets were also fired on Patels. This is not the style of Congress. We believe in moving ahead by keeping all the communities together,” he said. 

In an attempt to convert the Patidhar voters, Rahul Gandhi met Hardik Patel and other leaders for talks in Gandhinagar. Hardik Patel described the meeting as cordial, but said their agitation would continue as their main demand for reservation in government jobs and colleges was not discussed.

Despite Shankersinh Vaghela’s exit from the party having deprived the state Congress of a local face, the party remains upbeat after Ahmad Patel’s victory in the Rajya Sabha election.

Will a re-energised ‘Brand Rahul’ be enough to take on the Modi juggernaut? There’s no denying that the Congress has had its moments in Gujarat, but it lacked the final punch.

Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim

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