Exclusive | Gujarat CM Rupani Speaks On Polls, Hardik’s CD & More
For the first time in more than 15 years, Gujarat will be heading to polls without Narendra Modi as its chief ministerial face.
With the Congress stepping up their campaign in the state and murmurs about Rahul Gandhi’s increasing popularity, one question that is being asked is whether incumbent Chief Minister Vijay Rupani – with the help of PM Modi as the star campaigner – will be able to steer the BJP to a comprehensive victory in the upcoming elections.
In an exclusive interview with The Quint’s Editorial Director Sanjay Pugalia, Rupani spoke about various issues, including his expectations regarding the BJP’s performance, whether the party is facing anti-incumbency, job availability in the state, and allegations concerning SEBI’s fine against him.
What Are Rupani’s Predictions For The Upcoming Elections?
When asked how BJP is expected to fare in the upcoming elections, Rupani confidently stated that the party will win more than 150 seats and capture over 55 percent of the vote share.
Rupani said that the BJP would script a victory in Gujarat similar to the one in Uttar Pradesh. No media house was ready to believe that BJP was going to win in UP, he said, but it did, and that too with 325 seats – a three-quarter majority.
Politics Over Personal Videos Not Good: Rupani on Hardik Patel’s Alleged Sex Tape
Though he called Patidar leader Hardik Patel a “Congress agent”, Rupani said that politics over a personal video is not good, referring to the sex tape allegedly showing Patel in the act with an unknown woman that went viral on Monday, 13 November.
Instead, battles must be fought at an ideological level, he remarked.
Citing reports of secret meetings between Patel and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Rupani said that the Patidar agitation leader’s affinity for the Congress was now out in the open for all to see.
How Is the BJP Campaign Different This Time Around?
Asked how different the BJP campaign is for the coming Gujarat polls, Rupani emphasised the central role being played by him, unlike in the previous elections.
He said that unlike in the previous assembly elections, when he was only looking after the Saurashtra region, this time around, he is responsible for the entire state.
Comparing the BJP to a relay race team, he said that since the baton has now passed onto him, he would obviously be answerable for the government’s work.
Rupani Slams Previous UPA Government’s Performance
Taking a dig at the previous UPA government at the Centre, Rupani told The Quint that the Manmohan Singh government, which ran at the behest of Sonia Gandhi, was the most corrupt.
Though agreeing that the newer generation of Gujarat has not seen Congress rule in the state, he asserted that the people are aware about UPA’s performance at the Centre, and know the difference between Narendra Modi and Manmohan Singh.
On Rahul Gandhi’s Increasing Popularity
Amid murmurs of Rahul Gandhi’s rising popularity in Gujarat with his non-stop campaigning, Rupani asserted that the Congress vice-president has not been able to touch any raw nerve that could cost BJP the election.
The Chief Minister also said the TV channels are only running petty stories around Gandhi’s itinerary when PM Modi is not canvassing across the state.
According to him, the caste-based movements which are supporting the Congress, are undermining Gujarat’s stability and the ethos of inclusive development crafted by Modi over the last 14 years.
On Job Availability
In the context of the opposition repeatedly raising the issue of large-scale unemployment in the country, including in Gujarat, Rupani praised his state for ranking the highest in job-creation for the last 14 years.
He even went on to claim that 12,000 people came to Gujarat from Rahul Gandhi’s constituency of Amethi, on the hunt for employment opportunities.
Rupani lauded Gujarat for having the highest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and leading in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, textiles and diamonds.
On Education and the State of Farmers
Slamming the Congress for spreading false information, Rupani detailed the steps taken by the government to improve the education sector in the state, including increasing the number of free schools, as well as capping the fees in self-financed schools.
With regard to the agricultural sector, the Chief Minister said Gujarat was the leading producer of peanuts and has constructed several canals to ensure adequate irrigation facilities for its farmers.
Rupani Responds to SEBI Allegations
Responding to the claims made by Rahul Gandhi that SEBI has termed Rupani “dishonest” and imposed a fine on him, Rupani said that the Congress Vice President delivered what he was spoon-fed on the functioning of the market regulator before his campaigns.
However, Rupani claimed that when he bought the shares worth Rs 63,000, he was neither an MLA nor a CM. Having maintained that there was nothing illegal about this transaction, he claimed that the Securities Appellate Tribunal set aside the fine of Rs 6.91 crore imposed on 22 entities, including his firm.