Rajkot: In the town of Rajkot, the financial heart of the Saurashtra region, banners and hoardings of Congress candidate Indranil Rajyaguru seem to dwarf in both size and number those of his opponent – Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
Gujarat Assembly Constituency number 69, Rajkot West, has been a prestige seat for the BJP. In 2002, Narendra Modi contested the first-ever election of his life from Rajkot West and won before being anointed CM. BJP veteran Vajubhai Vala, former state finance minister and current Governor of Karnataka, has been a seven-time MLA from here. This time, the BJP candidate is Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. But Indranil Rajyaguru, the richest candidate in the Gujarat elections with declared assets worth Rs 141 crore, plans to put an end to BJP's juggernaut in Rajkot. While Rajyaguru is the sitting MLA from Rajkot East, he has changed his seat to Rajkot West to contest against the CM.
In an exclusive interview to News 18's Uday Singh Rana, Rajyaguru talked about how he plans to topple the CM.
Q: You are the sitting MLA from Rajkot East, which is considered a 'safe seat' for you. Why would you throw that away and change your seat?
Rajyaguru: For me, politics is not about becoming an MLA. For me, it is about service. I saw that the worst person (Rupani) has reached the highest seat (that of the Chief Minister). I know Vijay Rupani personally and he does not do any good work. As a resident of Rajkot and a citizen of India, I have to stop him here. And I am almost on the verge of success.
Q: You have been saying for a while that you would contest from wherever Rupani decides to contest. When did you decide to run against the CM?
Rajyaguru: I got a phone call one day, informing me that BJP has decided to install Vijay Rupani as the next CM and that very day, I decided. The next day, I discussed this with my party seniors. My party also agreed that I should contest against him.
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of running against a CM?
Rajyaguru: Rajkot has seen many CMs. But none of them has done anything for this city or the local issues that the people here face. They (BJP) claim they have solved the water shortage in the city. Are they saying all they have done in 22 years is just lain a water pipeline? All the major dams in Gujarat were built by Congress. We (Rajkot) have got nothing in the last 22 years.
Q: You are saying that despite giving so many leaders, Rajkot has not received anything? What should it have received in the last 22 years?
Rajyaguru: We are waiting for an international airport, we are waiting for an AIIMS, and we are waiting for a high court bench in Rajkot. The traffic problems are not being solved. Liquor trade is flourishing despite prohibition in Gujarat. Making a few roads here and a handful of gardens there is not vikas (development).
Q: BJP claims that Congress is engaging in negative politics and you have no alternative model to present to the state. Why should the people of Gujarat vote for your party?
Rajyaguru: We don't have to promise anything or prove ourselves. The country did not have electricity, food, water, schools or hospitals. Today people have all these basic services. All this is because of Congress. The country, Gujarat included, has come a long way in 70 years. Are they (BJP) trying to say Congress has done nothing?
Q: But BJP has also accused you of stalling the development of Gujarat, particularly of the Narmada Dam project. How would you react to that?
Rajyaguru: The Narmada dam was Congress's brainchild, to get water to Saurashtra, Kutch and Rajasthan. In fact, 90% of the construction took place because of Congress. Their claim, that Congress was stalling the project, is completely false. They are lying. The BJP state government in Madhya Pradesh did not give a no-objection certificate. They only cleared it when BJP came to power at the Centre. So attacking the Manmohan Government was nothing more than a political stunt. Even if we accept their claims, what was stopping the Gujarat government from constructing pipelines and sub-canals over the last 22 years?
Q: Let's talk about your own constituency again. How have you campaigned on the ground in Rajkot?
Rajyaguru: Since the day he (Rupani) has become CM, I have been canvassing the entire constituency and meeting people in their homes. Over the last year, I have met close to 2.15 lakh people and formed a personal bond with them. In the coming days, I will meet the rest also. I may have been the MLA from Rajkot East but people from all over the city and district come to me with their problems. I have always ensured people get justice.
Q: Some would say that running against a sitting Chief Minister is suicidal. Are you fighting a losing battle?
Rajyaguru: (Laughs) Those who are saying this should visit the area. Even if Modi Ji and Amit Shah campaign here, Vijaybhai will not win. The people here know both of us well. I am here for sewa (service), he is here for mewa (benefits). Everybody in Rajkot knows how he has facilitated corruption here, whether it was in the university or as the chairman of the corporation. Everybody knows how he has given patronage to goondas (goons). People here know that of these two sons of Rajkot, the elder brother (Rupani) is not good so the younger one (me) should get a chance. Everyone here is saying, Congress aave chhe (Congress is coming to power).