Sunday, December 06, 2015

Congress can't "win" 2017 Gujarat assembly polls if it doesn't improve in urban areas, suggests Madhusudan Mistry

By Our Representative
Senior Congress leader from Gujarat Madhusudan Mistry, known for taking independent political stances which may not necessarily to be the liking of a section of the party leaders, has strongly insisted the onus is on the Congress leadership to “change” its present electoral/mobilisation strategy, especially in urban areas, if it wants to “win the assembly election due in 2017.”
All-India general secretary of the Congress, and currently Rajya Sabha member, Mistry said in a recent article written in the wake of the party seizing power in 21 district panchayats of 31, that this is particularly important because “it is fact that a sizeable number of assembly seats are in urban areas”. The Congress lost all the six urban municipal corporations to the BJP.
While pointing out that “one of the ways for the Congress to turn electoral fortunes in its favour would be to target urban voters and attract professionals and the youth to its fold”, Mistry believes this would become possible only if “Besides, the party must work among the urban poor, including slum-dwellers.”
As for the rural areas, he suggested, the need is to consolidate its victory with concrete work, asking the Congress to focus on making “efforts to deliver on social and economic schemes and programmes in district and taluka panchayats.” More important, he added, “The Congress must credibly show that it is free from corruption and can provide sound governance.”
Asking the Congress to “establish a working mechanism” to ensure that the victory is consolidated, Mistry warned, “The task of the Congress-led panchayats will not be easy considering that the BJP’s grip over administration is firm.”
Experts have long argued how Gujarat's urban areas make up more than 42 per cent of the state's population, which influence the rural areas in a considerable way.  Mistry apprehended, “The ruling party will provide grants to panchayats for committed expenditure, such as staff salary, but it is feared that it might choke the disbursal of funds for development schemes.”
Asking the Gujarat party leaders to “take this opportunity to settle weakness that has dogged it for years – unity among party leaders”, Mistry said, “The Congress’ prospects in future elections will improve if it is able to project that it is a party for all sections of people.”
Especially wanting the Gujarat party leaders to “curb their ambitions if they have to take on the powerful BJP”, Mistry said, one should remember why the Congress was able to win sizably in rural areas, especially in North Gujarat and Saurashtra.”
He underlined, “In rural Gujarat, the patidars’ (Patels) demands for reservation and the state government’s refusal to grant them quota in government jobs seems to have gone against the BJP in north Gujarat and Saurashtra, since these regions have a sizeable population of patidars.”
At the same time, Mistry said, other factors affecting Congress victory in rural areas were “non–remunerative minimum support price for cotton and other crops, lack of irrigation facilities, crop failure, farmers’ suicides, lack of job opportunities and self-financed higher education policies, especially in medical education, are important factors which adversely affected the BJP’s fortunes in rural areas.”
“Indeed, the BJP was able to retain the support of urban voters, but rural distress caused the electorate to abandon the party which had taken their support for granted”, he said, adding, “Chief Minister Anandiben Patel’s charisma, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s legacy and the BJP president Amit Shah’s presence were not sufficient reasons for the voters to go along with the BJP.”

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