With Rahul Gandhi By His Side, Ahmed Patel Challenges BJP in Its Den
On Wednesday, Rahul got off the yatra bus and climbed atop a matador for a road show through Bharuch town during the third and crucial phase of Congress’ Navsarjan Yatra.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi meeting supporters during a road show at Samni village of Bharuch district. (File Photo: PTI)
Bharuch: Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is trying to add a personal touch to his Gujarat election campaign and seems more spontaneous during his public interactions now.
On Wednesday, Rahul got off the yatra bus and climbed atop a matador for a road show through Bharuch town during the third and crucial phase of Congress’ Navsarjan Yatra. He readily shook hands and went past the SPG cover. A young girl shouted at Rahul that she wanted to take a selfie with him. She was pulled atop the matador. Selfies were clicked, and the roadshow continued.
Standing by his side all along was Ahmed Patel. The understated, low profile, yet powerful, political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Patel won in 1977 from Bharuch bucking the anti-Emergency trend. He entered the power corridors of Delhi along with Shankersinh Vaghela and has worked closely with Rajiv Gandhi between 1984 and 1989.
Since his victory in a bitterly contested Rajya Sabha elections that Patel won by a slender margin, Ahmed Bhai — as he is known in political circles — has kept a low profile.
Recently, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani tried to link Patel with a hospital where a suspected IS operative was recently arrested by the state anti-terror squad. In Bharuch, Patel in one of those rare public speeches challenged the BJP.
“I do not have to learn nationalism from the BJP. Hundreds of Congress leaders have died fighting terrorism. People who escorted terrorists to Kandahar are demanding my resignation,” he said.
Patel then went on to state that the alleged IS operative who worked at the Sardar Patel Hospital in Ankleshwar, earlier worked at the Care Hospital that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.
In the urban areas of Bharuch and Ankleshwar, Rahul Gandhi raked up the issue of demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST) implementation. The target audience is small and medium scale entrepreneur.
“The BJP wants to celebrate November 8, while the whole country is crying. Where is the black money? Small entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy, and they have been hit the worst,” Gandhi said.
It is in South Gujarat that the Congress will face its toughest challenge. The party was swept away from urban centers by a rampaging BJP with a 90 plus strike rate in cities and big towns. In tribal-dominated rural districts, which were once considered Congress stronghold, the party has steadily conceded space to the BJP.
As the Congress has been out of power for more than two decades now, the organisational base has eroded. For both the Congress and Rahul, it is now a long road ahead to redemption.
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