This edition of the Express Adda held at the Hyatt Hotel, Ahmedabad, hosted Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. In a discussion moderated by National Opinion Editor Vandita Mishra and Resident Editor (Gujarat) Leena Misra, Rupani spoke on a range of issues — preparing for the state assembly elections, dealing with the Patidar and Dalit agitations and the impact of demonetisation and GST.
On managing Narendra Modi’s first election
Narendrabhai came in 2001 and within six months he had to fight an election. He had left everything to the party and it was decided that he would fight elections from Rajkot, which has been a BJP bastion since the Jan Sangh days.
The Congress had put in its full force in that election but he (Modi) won. That election was important for us.
On Gujarat CMs living in Modi’s shadow
You can’t compare (us) with Modi. You cannot hold a lamp to the sun. He (Modi) has charted a path of development (for Gujarat and India) and I am certainly capable of walking on that path.
On learning Russian in prison during the Emergency
During our time in prison (during the Emergency), a senior leader told us to make good use of our time. So, I decided to learn a foreign language. Russia was the dominating power then, so I learnt Russian — I was 19. Josef Stalin’s daughter Svetlana had written a number of books and I read those.
On the Patidar and Dalit agitations
Let me tell you, we have many Patidars in our leadership. To contain the agitation, we brought a Yuva Swavalamban Yojana under which the state government promised financial assistance to students of non-reserved categories in private institutes. Apart from that, we have also enacted a law to give 10% reservation to economically weaker sections. A legal matter regarding that is pending before the Supreme Court. And recently, we have negotiated with agitating Patidars and decided to set up a Commission for non-reserved category students to give them financial assistance. We are also appointing a judicial commission to probe into the allegations of police atrocities (on agitating Patidars).
As far as Una (where Dalits were attacked) is concerned, what happened was shameful. But we acted expeditiously and took strict action. The case is going on in a fast track court. Unfortunately, Mayawatiji politicised the entire issue. After that (Una public flogging of Dalits), nothing (crime against Dalits) has happened in Gujarat till today. Una happened around one-and-a- half years back. So, that agitation has got diluted. I don’t see any problem.
On Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani
I want to ask if the three of them are going to form a political party and fight elections. Only when they do, if they do, will it be clear who is more popular. And I doubt if the three of them can come together. Each of them has a different demand — one is talking about OBC reservation, second is talking about Dalit reservation and the third one is talking about no reservation. I believe the emergence of these three leaders is a conspiracy of the Congress party. All of Hardik’s tweets are against the BJP, none is against the Congress. Is everything all right with the Congress?
On the 150+ target for polls
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP got 73 out of 80 seats. Now, keeping in mind those seats, it was leading in 310 Assembly constituencies. And when results of the UP Assembly elections were out, we got 325 seats. The same logic applies to Gujarat. In 2014, we won 26 out of 26 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. Considering that performance, we were leading in 165 Assembly constituencies. On the basis of that, we have kept the target at 150+. Moreover, when Narendrabhai was CM, we got 121 seats. So now, when he is the PM, we should get more seats.
Transcribed by Parimal Dabhi