Ahead of civic polls, Congress reaches out to Gujarati voters

Ahead of civic polls, Congress reaches out to Gujarati voters
© Provided by Hindustan Times Congress is focusing on the economic hardships faced by the businessmen and small traders, among whom Gujarati voters are in substantial numbers (AP)

Ahead of the civic polls, Congress is looking to regain its base in the Gujarati community and have decided to highlight the economic distress and livelihood disruptions that happened due to the Union government’s decisions.

The Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) is focusing on the economic hardships faced by the businessmen and small traders, among whom Gujarati-speakers form substantial numbers. To counter the sway of political Hindutva, the Congress will focus on specific caste groups like Patidars and Gujarati Dalits and will deploy its leaders from Gujarat to spread its message in the run-up to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections.

Mumbai Congress organised an interactive session with the Gujarati community in Ghatkopar on Tuesday. The session was addressed by Hardik Patel, the face of the Patidar community’s protests in Gujarat seeking reservations. Patel is also the working president of the Gujarat state Congress.

“The Covid crisis exposed the real face of Narendra Modi. He did little to help the small traders and the poor. The government works for the benefit of a chosen few among the industrialists. The smaller traders and entrepreneurs are facing massive hardships…with little support from the government,” charged Bhai Jagtap, president, MRCC.

Jagtap said that Patel would help sway voters from the Patidar community, which has significant numbers in Mumbai. The Mumbai Congress also plans to deploy other leaders from the Gujarat unit like the leader of opposition Paresh Dhanani, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president Amit Chavda, senior leader Shaktisinh Gohil, and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani.

“The middle-class and small traders and entrepreneurs have been hurt hard by demonetisation…but since they are into business, they cannot take a critical position openly as they fear retributive action by the present regime using agencies like the Income Tax (I.T) and Enforcement Directorate (ED). These people are very angry and upset and want to get rid of this dispensation,” Patel told HT, adding that the Central government had failed to create jobs and employment opportunities. He charged that the BJP and the RSS were trying to deflect blame by using communally polarising and emotive issues.

“In politics, the mood of the people is fickle. There was a time when the Gujaratis were with the Congress in Mumbai… regardless of their political affiliations, the Gujaratis hail from the land of the Sardar (Patel). After all, (Mahatma) Gandhi and Sardar built the Congress. The people respect Congress and we are trying to meet their expectations. We will work to meet these aspirations and ensure that the Congress grows among the Gujaratis in Mumbai,” said Patel, while predicting a “shocking result” in the BMC polls.

Mehul Vora, who heads the Gujarati cell of the Mumbai Congress, said that the massive groundswell of support from the Gujaratis had helped the BJP notch up significant seats from Mumbai in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha and assembly elections. Vora added that Gujarati speakers formed around 30 lakh in the city’s population, with a significant presence across the city, eastern and western suburbs.

Vora blamed the triple whammy of demonetisation, a blanket rollout of GST with multiple tax rates and the lockdown for distress in the community, and society at large. “This had led them shifting loyalties to the Congress,” he claimed.

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