The Congress is the BJP’s main challenger in Gujarat in the assembly polls later this year and there is no place for a third party including Hardik Patel’s outfit, says state Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
The Hardik Patel-led Patidaar Anamat Andolan Samiti has already lost steam, claims the chief minister.
“The people of Gujarat have never accepted the third front in the state. It is only BJP and Congress who are seen to be the main competitors,” Rupani told IANS in an interview.
He was asked about the emergence of third parties with Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor of Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena and Aam Aadmi Party seeking to make their presence felt in the state.
Rupani said the Patidar agitation for quota, which was led by Hardik Patel, will not have any impact in the assembly elections.
He said the Patel community was largely with the BJP and the government had taken steps to meet their demands concerning education and jobs.
He said if non-Congress parties come together it will only boost the prospects of the BJP.
He said the party has performed credibly in the civic elections in the state which were held after the Patidar agitation.
Rupani has said that the defections in the Congress ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections last month had hit the opposition party.
“The defections in the Congress has helped us. And I feel that the split has broken Congress back in the state,” he said.
He also refuted the allegations of the BJP playing a role in the defection of Congress MLAs. “All the words that we are behind the split in the Congress are false.”
“The defections in Congress started immediately after Ashok Gehlot was made the state in-charge. We don’t have any role in that,” he said.
The Rajya Sabha election for the third seat from Gujarat had gone to the wire with Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, eventually emerging the winner. Congress MLAs, considered loyal to former chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, had left the party ahead of the elections.
The election also saw cross-voting by Congress and NCP legislators.
Rupani said he seeks guidance from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah on issues concerning the state and saw nothing wrong in it.
“Modiji has got a lot of experience as the Chief Minister of the state. Even Shah has got the experience of being in the government for over 13 years, so I don’t see any crime if I consult them over the development issues,” Rupani said.
Rupani said the BJP will win over 150 of the 182 seats in the assembly polls to be held later this year.
“When Modiji was the Chief Minister he got 122 seats in last assembly elections. And this time (when he is the prime minister) we are hopeful that we would get over 150 seats in the assembly elections.”
The BJP has been in power in the state for about 20 years.
Asked about the major decisions taken by him since he became chief minister about a year back, he said, “In the last one year, I have taken over 475 decisions for the state. When I became the Chief Minister I said it clearly that the government would be transparent, decisive, sensitive and progressive.”
Referring to the recent floods in the state, Rupani said, “I took the government to the doorstep of flood-affected people. I camped there for five days and announced a package of Rs 15,000 crore for the people. This shows the government is sensitive to its people.”
He also said that his major decisions include the Seva Setu scheme, in which the government officials visit the villages and meet their demands such as getting certificates.
“Under this scheme we have already provided service to over 70 lakh people,” he said.
Replying to a question on his party’s slogan of ‘Garje Gujarat’ (roaring Gujarat) Rupani said, “Garje means singhnaad (roar) and we used this slogan for development. We gave this slogan because we want Gujarat to develop in a confident manner.”
He said Gujarat had suffered during the 10-year rule of the Congress-led UPA and the BJP was seeking to bring about accelerated development of the state.
“It happened for the first time that the state government filled the vacancies of over 80,000 in several government departments. About 18,000 people were selected in police jobs. And there was complete transparency in giving the job.”
Crediting Prime Minister Modi for expeditious decisions on the Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam, he said, “September 17 is his birthday and we want to give him the Sardar Sarovar dam which was completed due to his efforts.”
He accused the Congress of delaying the work of the Sardar Sarovar dam project.
“The foundation stone was laid by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961 and till 1998, work did not start on the project.”
He said the BJP governments had taken decisions to get the work completed.
Rupani said that he has brought a strict law against cow slaughter and taken measures to prevent schools from charging exorbitant fees.
Asked about the attacks on dalits in his state last year, Rupani said, “There is no lawlessness in the state. After the news came to us about the beating of the dalits we took immediate action against the accused. They are behind bars for last one year. And also formed a fast track court for the same.”
(Anand Singh can be contacted at [email protected])