Gujarat Awaits Poll Schedule
Dates likely to be announced in the first week of November, political planning gathers steam
Poll bound state of Gujarat is witnessing a post Diwali celebration lull before politics picks up full steam after Labh Pacham, the fifth day of the Hindu New Year. Observers expect the Assembly polls to be announced in the first week of November.
Before that the state is all set to witness a high profile visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31, the birth anniversary of ST ardar Patel, Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is also going to be in the state.
There might be a festival break in the political events, but planning and scheming continue full steam. Political desperation often leads to illogical statements and actions coming from politicians. This has been on display in the last few days too.
The first such instance was that of minister of state for home Harsh Sanghavi announcing that those violating traffic rules would not be fined during Diwali festivities from October 21 till October 27. The Police were instead directed to give flowers to those violating traffic norms like not wearing a helmet or not having a licence.
The move was slammed by many, and local residents told this reporter that this resulted in a menace on Diwali with certain elements creating mayhem on the roads in several cities. The move reminded one of the earlier decision taken by the Vijay Rupani led government in 2019 when it had done away with mandatory wearing of helmets due to popular sentiments. However, it had reportedly taken a U-turn following the filing of public interest litigation in the Gujarat High Court.
The state is also known for minimal adherence to traffic norms. The police are often under pressure for not acting against violators. Many violators claim they are affiliated to political parties or are relatives of politicians. Many vehicles display scarves identified with a political party, or the party's election symbol is painted prominently on the number plates or wind screens.
Another statement reportedly came from the state BJP CR Paatil who targeted Kejriwal for his government's ban on crackers. Paatil termed 'such people' as 'anti religious' who were stopping people from celebrating festivals.
Then came the most viral statement of them all by Kejriwal when he appealed to PM Modi to print the images of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha on new currency notes as this symbol of prosperity would 'help the Indian economy get back on track'.
In Gujarat this appeal by Kejriwal is being seen as a move to appease Hindutva sentiments ahead of the forthcoming polls.
It is also the season of political yatras in Gujarat ahead of the polls. Now AAP workers and supporters under its leader Isudan Gadhvi have embarked on a 'Bas, ab parivartan chahiye' yatra (Enough, we now want a change) from Mogal Dham. This yatra will cover Saurashtra and North Gujarat, moving through around 60 Assembly constituencies in districts including Jamnagar, Morbi, and Surendranagar.
According to Gadhvi, "Now only a few days are left for the election and the biggest responsibility rests on the shoulders of the workers. Today the AAP has reached every house in Gujarat. The workers have spread the guarantees of Arvind Kejriwal to every nook and corner of Gujarat along with information about the development work done in Delhi."
The Congress is also scheduled to launch its five 'Parivartan Sankalp Yatras' (Promising Change) from October 31. These Yatras will be launched from Palanpur in Banaskantha district, Fagvel in Kheda district, Nakhatrana in Kutch, Somnath in Gir Somnath district and Jambusar in Bharuch district.
The Congress campaign till now has been very low key leaving political observers perplexed. There are already questions being raised about the state being left out of the itinerary of the Bharat Jodo Yatra being undertaken by senior party leader Rahul Gandhi and not many senior leaders from the centre visiting the state.
Sources on the ground say that the party is concentrating on the seats in rural areas and is confining its campaign to small meetings, referred to as 'khatla baithaks' in Gujarat.
"We have been working on strengthening the party at the booth level. The campaign momentum will pick up in the next five days. Many senior party leaders including Ashok Gehlot, Kamal Nath, Bhupesh Baghel, Digvijay Singh and Mukul Wasnik will be in the state for the Parivartan Sankalp Yatras," said a party leader.
Political leader Manish Doshi said, "The party is telling the people what it will do to help them overcome the misery unleashed on them by the policies of the regime in the state as well as the centre. We have taken the Adivasi Sankalp Patras to the tribal population spread across 40 constituencies and Dalit Adhikar Patras to 40 constituencies having a substantial Dalit population. We are working for a change."
Meanwhile, the BJP has just completed its 'Gaurav Yatra' covering 152 of the 182 Assembly constituencies. "While it did not receive much of an enthusiastic response from the common people it has served its purpose of galvanising the party cadres at the grassroots level," pointed an observer on the ground.
Ironically, the party leaders participating in Gaurav Yatra had to face resistance from the Anjana Chaudhary community members of Arbuda Sena. The latter have been protesting against the arrest of former minister Vipul Chaudhary.
He was arrested by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) last month in a case of alleged financial irregularities amounting to Rs 800 crores at Dudhsagar Dairy in Mehsana that he had headed in the past. The Yatra faced opposition in parts of North Gujarat particularly in the districts of Banaskantha and Patan.
The BJP will try to increase its tally from the previous elections where it had got a scare from a resurgent Congress in 2017. Sources say that it might change its candidates in at least one fourth of the constituencies.
The state continues to witness developments that have all the potential to have political ramifications in the long run.
One such development was the state's Governor Acharya Devvrat taking over as the Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith amidst a controversy. As many as eight trustees of the institute that was founded by Mahatma Gandhi had resigned saying that appointment had been made due to political pressure.
In a joint statement opposing the resolution selecting the new Chancellor, was issued by the trustees. "The Government's action runs counter to the goal and purpose of Gujarat Vidyapith and is inimical to the existence of the University. It is not only tantamount to unethical use of power but is anti-democratic and a disgrace to any government in a free society.
"We condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Any healthy democracy can only be rooted in principled public policy. Through this action the Government has made clear its intention of taking over big, small, strong and weak Gandhian institutions and thereby erase and alter history.
"It is absolutely imperative that all educational institutions -even if they receive Government grants remain independent and insulated from the rough and tumble of power and politics," it stated.
They said it would be 'foolhardy' to harbour the illusion that all will be well, now that the government has taken over Vidyapith. "We humbly appeal to the newly selected Chancellor, that as you would be aware of the circumstances of your selection. It was neither spontaneous nor the unanimous decision of the Board of Trustees.
"It was under crass political pressure. It was in total disregard of Gandhi's values, methods and practices. How can that do credit to your honour and dignity? Your Excellency, to uphold the fundamental values of democracy and transparent autonomous decision-making you have the opportunity to set an example by declining to take charge as Chancellor," the statement added.