Amid BJP’s claims of a wave, AAP tries to create a splash in Gujarat

The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | 11-09-2022 | 10:35 pm

Amid BJP’s claims of a wave, AAP tries to create a splash in Gujarat

On September 8, while addressing a gathering of beneficiaries of central schemes, BJP state chief C R Paatil took the trouble to calculate and note how the various guarantees announced by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would cost the public exchequer Rs 41,607 crore annually, thus far overshooting the state’s annual budget. It was at an event in Olpad taluka of Surat district, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi would later speak to beneficiaries of central schemes and would also remember the late Union Textiles Minister Kashiram Rana, with whom he had a bitter fallout.Three days before this, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, while addressing a Parivartan Sankalp rally in Ahmedabad, announced eight guarantees, something that political parties usually do not do until close to the elections.Ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal appears to be redefining the rules of the game.Even as the BJP was talking about the Gujarat model, the sudden ouster of the Vijay Rupani government a year ago, the stripping of key portfolios of two ministers in the new Bhupendra Patel government, the agitations by various government employees for grade pay, and the hooch tragedy which claimed 42 lives, have given fodder to the Opposition to take on the government over its governance claims.Even as Kejriwal promised a Delhi model for Gujarat if AAP won the elections, the Congress has recently begun talking about a ‘Rajasthan model’ in its rallies, having assigned the responsibility of the state elections to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in addition to his former health minister and AICC general secretary Raghu Sharma.Since May, Kejriwal has visited Gujarat at least a dozen times, each time announcing a guarantee and holding a town hall. The AAP has so far announced nine guarantees, and the Congress eight, many of them overlapping — like the 300 units of free electricity and jobs to the unemployed.Veteran BJP leaders will tell you there is no space for a third party in Gujarat and that AAP would only eat into Congress votes, but there are younger leaders in the party who admit, “even if one MLA of AAP wins, it will be bad for us”.The fear is not so much for the upcoming Assembly election as it is for the 2024 general elections, given that this is the home state of the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister. It is not so much for AAP’s numbers as much as it is “for the noise it makes”, says a party leader.Around the time Lieutenant General of Delhi V K Saxena was raising questions on the AAP government’s amended excise policy, Kejriwal was in Gujarat meeting victims of a hooch tragedy in Bhavnagar — the constituency of Education Minister Jitu Vaghani, with whom his deputy Manish Sisodia has had a direct confrontation over the state of schools.With Goa declaring AAP as a state party in August after it won two seats with a vote share of 6.77 per cent, Kejriwal had proclaimed that if one more state recognised it as a state party, AAP would be a national party. In both Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, the party has decided to contest on all seats.A week ago, Kejriwal had taunted the Centre saying the ED raids on Sisodia would lead to a 4 per cent rise in AAP’s vote share in Gujarat and that if he was arrested, it would take the party’s vote share to 6 per cent.In the 2017 elections, AAP had contested only 29 seats in Gujarat, losing deposits on all and ending up with a vote share of just 0.10 per cent, which was far below even the NOTA option, which had a vote share of 1.84 per cent. This time, the AAP has already announced candidates for 39 Assembly seats in Gujarat.Leaders in the Congress and BJP often say that the AAP’s term in Punjab will leave it exposed since governing a full-fledged state — unlike Delhi — is a completely different ball game.However, if the sheer number of ‘Ek mauko Kejriwal ne (One chance to Kejriwal)’ slogans, brazenly painted on the walls across the city and boldly on the pillars of the Metro Project in Ahmedabad, are anything to go by, or if the number of autos with the same slogan and Kejriwal’s poster smiling from its hoods are an indicator, the AAP has certainly kicked up a storm, at least among the middle class and underprivileged sections of Gujarat.Kejriwal’s town hall in Bhavnagar had seen jawans of the Gujarat Industrial Security Force (GISF) come in their uniforms and complain about their low pay grades.The frequent clashes between AAP and BJP workers, especially in Surat, also point to a nervousness in the BJP camp since this the bastion of its leader C R Paatil, who is not only an MP from Surat but the party’s state chief, whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known to trust.Paatil, who had in an interview to The Indian Express soon after his appointment said that he would resign if the BJP got even one seat less than 182 — the total seats in the Assembly — is now avoiding quoting a victory number. “The army is ready, as are the arms, for the battle…there should be no sympathy,” Paatil said at the rally on September 8m adding that the winning margin should be 50,000 votes on every seat. In the current Assembly, the BJP has 111 seats while the main Opposition Congress has 63.Having said in 2020 that the party with 1.13 crore workers would not need to “import anyone”, Paatil has since then brought on board young leaders disgruntled with the Congress, including Hardik Patel, Jairajsinh Parmar and Vishwanath Vaghela.The prospect that these ‘imported’ leaders could be given tickets to contest the elections is causing discomfort among younger leaders in the BJP. To that, a senior state BJP leader says, “Everyone understands that if we have to win the election, and if these leaders make for good candidates, they will get tickets”.It was in Surat, where, within seven months of Paatil as BJP chief, that the AAP won 27 of 120 seats in the Municipal Corporation in the local body elections held in February 2021, and became the main Opposition. The clashes between the BJP and AAP have only increased since then, the latest being at a Ganesh pandal set up by the AAP, where one of its state secretaries, Manoj Sorathiya, was seriously injured.On September 3, Kejriwal returned to Surat, where he had announced the AAP’s first guarantee in July, to participate in the Ganesh aarti with Sorathiya.While the Congress has been calling AAP the “B-team of the BJP” and the AAP has been blaming the Congress as “an ally” of the BJP, Kejriwal’s silence on the release of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, and his cries of ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ at his public rallies, indicate that he is out to get the Hindu vote.Like a former Rajya Sabha MP of the BJP said, “If nothing, AAP has managed to keep our cadres alert, which is good.”

Google Follow Image


Similar News

CEC slams poll speculation even before his visit
Ahmedabad Mirror | 1 day ago | 28-09-2022 | 06:00 am
Ahmedabad Mirror
1 day ago | 28-09-2022 | 06:00 am

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar on Tuesday said some “self-appointed astrologers” have declared dates of elections before his visit to Gujarat.Without taking his name, the CEC took a swipe at state BJP chief C R Paatil, who had said the Assembly polls may conclude by November-end, Kumar told reporters, “We take a decision on when to hold elections after taking into consideration all factors. Whenever the time comes, we inform the media and nobody else.”The CEC and a team of senior officials of the Election Commission of India (ECI) are in Gujarat to review the poll preparedness. Talking about the preparedness in Gujarat, the CEC said the ECI is working to connect more people through technology. The poll body has launched CVIGIL and KYC apps as well as Suvidha portal for candidates.The CEC said efforts are undertaken to encourage senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to exercise their franchise. Out of the total 4.83 crore electors in Gujarat, 10.36 lakh voters are above the age of 80 while 11,842 are centenarians, he said, adding that the number of PWDs in the state is 4.13 lakh. He said, “We have asked collectors to send someone to the houses of centenarians to express gratitude and offer them respect.” The CEC said the last electoral rolls in Gujarat (before polls) will be published on October 10.For transparent and fair polls, the ECI will make provision for webcasting from over 50% of 5,178 polling booths in the state during the upcoming elections, he said. “We are taking very strong action in ensuring transparency in booths. These polling stations are identified as sensitive and critical booths,” Kumar said.Rajiv Kumar said the poll body will send booth-level officers (BLOs) to the residences of senior citizen voters who opt to vote from home. The process will be video-graphed. A similar facility will also be made for PWDs with over 40% disability.He said he has received some constructive suggestions from political parties, several of which such as web-casting of polling booths, not allowing candidates and party workers to ferry voters, and SOPs for poll code to ensure common citizens are not harassed will be implemented.About donations to political parties, the CEC said such donations should be disclosed. Candidates and political parties will be required to publish information regarding criminal antecedents in newspapers,he said.

CEC slams poll speculation even before his visit
Gujarat: Publish list of criminal cases in newspapers, says CEC Rajiv Kumar
Times of India | 1 day ago | 28-09-2022 | 05:53 am
Times of India
1 day ago | 28-09-2022 | 05:53 am

GANDHINAGAR: Stating that fairness and transparency will be overriding factors in conduction of the assembly election later this year, chief election commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar said in Gandhinagar on Tuesday that candidates with criminal antecedents will be required to publish a list of cases pending against them. In addition, political parties who give tickets to such persons will be mandated to publish what compulsions they had to give tickets to persons with criminal backgrounds. Kumar said some "self-appointed astrologers" have declared dates of elections before his visit to Gujarat, an apparent swipe at state BJP chief C R Paatil who had recently said the assembly polls may conclude by November-end. "It is a different thing that there are some self-appointed astrologers who have announced the dates of elections before my visit here. I wish the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) was in force. If the MCC were in force, we would have reacted immediately," Kumar said. The CEC parried questions about the election schedule - dates and phases if any - stating, "We have discussed these issues in detail. The commission will shortly decide after receiving feedback from multiple sources." "We understand that everybody has the right to contest elections, but it is our duty to inform the voters about criminal antecedents, if any, of candidates. It has been mandated that every candidate who has criminal cases pending, must boldly publish advertisements at least three times in newspapers, listing out the cases pending," Kumar said. He added that the commission will upload this information on its website and the KYC (know your candidate) application as well. "Political parties who give tickets to candidates with criminal records will also have to publish advertisements, explaining what compulsions they had in giving tickets to candidates with criminal antecedents," The CEC added. Maintaining that transparency and fairness will be the prime aim of conducting elections, the CEC said that real-time webcasting will be done of about 25,000 of the total 51,000-odd polling stations in the Gujarat assembly election. Listing out some of the representations made by political parties during their interaction with a team of the EC, Kumar said parties expressed the need to monitor irregularities at polling stations more effectively. They also sought setting up of a single window system for all ECI-related activities, he added. "Parties also wanted voting hours to be extended and asked us to ensure that retired government employees are not assigned election duty," Kumar said. "Urban apathy is a pan-India problem. It brings down the overall voting percentage in an election. The EC will take up a special drive to encourage urban voters and youth to cast their vote," the CEC said. Out of the total 4.83 crore electors in Gujarat, 10.36 lakh voters are above the age of 80 while 11,842 are centenarians, the official said, adding that the number of PWDs in the state is 4.13 lakh.

Gujarat: Publish list of criminal cases in newspapers, says CEC Rajiv Kumar
BJP on PM Narendra Modi rallies in Gujarat: Mark costs to party
Times of India | 2 days ago | 27-09-2022 | 06:04 am
Times of India
2 days ago | 27-09-2022 | 06:04 am

GANDHINAGAR: The BJP has demanded that costs incurred on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's poll rallies in Gujarat be added to the party's expenses while the Congress has sought more transparency in the poll process. Both parties held meetings with Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar who began his two-day visit to the state on Monday. The CEC and a delegation of senior Election Commission officials are visiting Gujarat to review preparedness for the upcoming assembly polls and to meet political representatives, joint chief electoral officer of Gujarat, Ashok Patel, said. During their meeting with the CEC, the ruling BJP members demanded that voting hours be extended, said Gujarat BJP vice-president Gordhan Zadafia, who was part of the delegation which met the CEC in Gandhinagar. People are often not able to exercise their franchise because of long queues, said Zadafia. "Thus, we urged the CEC to extend voting hours to accommodate the working class, including those who work in agricultural fields," he said. The BJP also demanded that the costs incurred on PM Modi's election rallies be added to the party's expenditure instead of a candidate's, said BJP leader Parindu Bhagat, who was also part of the delegation. He cited the expenditure incurred by a candidate towards complying with the security protocols of the PM during his rallies. A Congress delegation led by senior leader Deepak Babariya urged the CEC to bring more transparency in the election process and to ensure that polling booths are not allotted based on the inclination of voters in a particular area towards a particular party. "In the past, EVMs went missing in large numbers and movement registers of EVMs were not shared with us," he said. "We demanded that the election process be made more transparent because many rules were flouted in the past." Babariya said, in some cases, the names of voters of an entire housing society went missing from the electors' list. "Polling booths were allotted 2-3km away if voters of that area were inclined to a particular party," said Babariya. "We urged the EC to make sure that such cases do not happen again."

BJP on PM Narendra Modi rallies in Gujarat: Mark costs to party
ECI team in Gujarat; Paatil hints at poll process completing by end of November
The Indian Express | 2 days ago | 27-09-2022 | 12:35 am
The Indian Express
2 days ago | 27-09-2022 | 12:35 am

An Election Commission of India team led by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey arrived in Gujarat on a two-day visit on Monday, even as BJP state chief CR Paatil indicated at a page committee meeting of the party in Anand that the election process may be “completed by November end”.Assembly elections are due in Gujarat in December when the term of the 14th Legislative Assembly ends.In its last visit to review poll preparedness, before election dates are announced, the ECI team held a meeting with district election officials from 33 districts and senior police officers with regard to law and order situation in the state. The team also met representatives of national parties in Gujarat. On Tuesday, the team will meet chief secretary Pankaj Kumar and DGP Ashish Bhatia. Speaking at the page committee meeting, Paatil said, “I feel that the (Gujarat) elections will be completed by the end of November. In 2012 and 2017, the elections were held from December 5. But this time, they may be advanced by about 10-12 days is what I feel. No one has told me this and I haven’t spoken to anyone… The media will say I declared the election dates but I don’t have that power.”Even as there has been talk about advancing the elections by “two weeks” as a top government official told The Indian Express, the BJP Monday submitted a 23-point memorandum to the ECI, urging it to “consider that the months of November and December are meant to be the most auspicious for weddings in the state of Gujarat”, while deciding on the polling dates.Government sources told this paper that a grand celebration of the birth centennial of Pramukh Swami Maharaj by the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purshottam Swaminarayan (BAPS) sect was likely to be held in December that would draw “a congregation of nearly one crore devotees” to Gujarat from all parts of the world. Majority of the followers of this sect are Patidars.The BJP handed out a list of suggestions to the EC that included request to exempt party candidates from “accounting for costs” pertaining to security arrangements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will be part of the poll campaign in the state.The memorandum states, “The expenses pertaining to the helipad, barricading, stage construction and security of PM Modi as well as other star campaigners, as will be decided by the various security agencies of the country, and not by the organisers of the campaign rally in the state. Therefore, these expenditures should not be counted as part of the candidate’s election expenses.”The Gujarat Congress, in its memorandum to the EC, sought that elections in South Gujarat and Saurashtra be held in a single phase, to avoid duplication of voters.Congress representatives said this was necessary as many residents from Saurashtra live and work in Surat and adjoining areas in South Gujarat. The Congress also sought that elections of North Gujarat and Ahmedabad be clubbed for the same reason.BJP general secretary Bhargav Bhatt said that the party’s request to the ECI was to consider that the polling dates may not clash with the most auspicious dates for weddings. Bhatt told this newspaper, “Elections in Gujarat are always held during November and December. The intention behind the party suggesting the ECI to consider that it is wedding season in Gujarat is for appropriate planning… For several years, the ECI, administration and all stakeholders have been working hard to ensure high voter turnout. Considering these aspects will help ensure high voter turnout… If the elections are slated for auspicious wedding days, it could affect voter turnout…”The BJP memorandum to the ECI, handed over by party vice-president Gordhan Zadafia and election legal cell convener Parindu Bhagat, also states that the ECI should “free the valuables including cash and election items” seized from individuals during raids by the flying squads during previous elections and also declare a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) for cash seizure during elections. Bhagat told The Indian Express, “We have made very positive suggestions to the ECI. There have been instances when the (flying squads) have seized cash from women, who were not even directly involved in political activity, while they were on their way to jewellery stores and so on… There should be an SOP in place. Similarly, we have said that senior citizens and physically challenged persons should be allowed to cast ballots from home…”Regarding the declaration of elections, Bhagat said that the “power lies with the ECI” to announce the dates and the Model Code of Conduct will be implemented with “immediate effect” after the announcement.In the memorandum, the Congress asked the ECI to weed out duplicate voters from electoral rolls and the party also said it had cited 6,784 duplicate names in Mehsana assembly constituenty in their earlier communication to the ECI. The party also demanded district-wise list of duplicate names found in electoral rolls.The Congress party, represented by three leaders, also requested ECI to “physically” handover the VVPAT slip to the voter, before it is dropped into a box.

ECI team in Gujarat; Paatil hints at poll process completing by end of November
AIMIM releases first list of 3 candidates for polls
The Indian Express | 2 days ago | 27-09-2022 | 12:35 am
The Indian Express
2 days ago | 27-09-2022 | 12:35 am

The All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) Monday released the first list of three candidates for the Gujarat Assembly elections.State AIMIM president and former Congress MLA Sabir Kabuliwala will contest from the Jamalpur Khadia seat in Ahmedabad and the party’s Surat district president Wasim Qureshi from Surat East.AIMIM will also field its women’s wing president Kaushika Parmar from Danilimda in Ahmedabad. While Danilimda and Jamalpur Khadia seats have Congress MLAs, the Surat East seat belongs to BJP.Expressing confidence in winning the Assembly polls, Kabuliwala told The Indian Express, “This time we will fight elections without being part of any alliance. We have decided to field candidates on 45-50 seats. In Ahmedabad, our candidates will contest from Jamalpur Khadia, Vejalpur, Dariyapur, Danilimda, Bapunagar seats, while from Surat, we will put two candidates from Surat East and Limbayat. We have not yet decided on the seats in Vadodara and Rajkot cities and other areas, but we are working on it.”Stating that they want remove “misconception” that AIMIM is “B-team of BJP”, he added, “In Gujarat many Congress MLAs had switched over to BJP. The situation is same in Goa. We don’t see that AAP will win any of the seats. They have created a good environment but it will not get converted into votes… They are giving lollypop in terms of guarantee cards, people will not accept them.”Parmar, who will contest his first elections, said, “I have worked a lot for the public during the pandemic time. Everybody knows me personally. I will set up an election office soon.”Qureshi, who hails from Sikar district in Rajasthan and is into the real estate business said, “We have seen the support given to AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi during his visit to Surat on May 23 at Limbayat area. We will work hard and start mohalla meetings and door-to-door meetings, during our election campaign.”

AIMIM releases first list of 3 candidates for polls