Bharatsinh Solanki, state president of the Congress in Gujarat, is 64, but looks no more than 50. Well-built and with a booming voice, this civil engineering graduate has with him the master blueprint for electioneering. What is more, he has inherited the maturity and mindfulness of his father Madhav Singh Solanki, former chief minister of Gujarat.
It was early morning, and Bharatsinh Solanki was tired and heavy-eyed when he returned to Ahmedabad after having accompanied Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on his campaign trail. Solanki agreed to talk to Malayala Manorama though he is generally averse to interviews.
Excerpts from the interview with Bharatsinh Solanki:
How hopeful is the Congress about victory in the assembly elections?
We are sure of coming to power. The people of Gujarat dislike the BJP’s rule. All sections of the people, irrespective of caste or creed, have distanced themselves from the BJP. In the last elections, the difference total votes between the BJP and the Congress was merely 7 per cent, which is a small margin. The Congress made a comeback in the recent elections to the local bodies by bagging 105 seats in the block panchayats and district panchayats. This was just a beginning.
Will the movements led by Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor benefit the Congress?
These three are the young leaders of Gujarat. They have created a new stir in the state. All the three support the Congress totally. In fact, a majority of the youngsters of Gujarat are in favour of the Congress.
It was rumoured that you would be contesting in the elections, but your name did not find a place in the list of candidates. Why?
I did not contest in elections when I was PCC president earlier (2006-2008). My task now is to lead the electioneering in all the 182 constituencies, and I want to put in my best efforts for that.
Why has the Congress not announced the chief ministerial candidate this time?
You can be sure of a Congress legislator becoming the chief minister.
Are you aware of the fact that the organisational setup of the Congress at the grassroots-level is weak even while you claim that there is an anti-incumbency trend?
The Congress is a movement of the people―Jan Aandolan. The people of Gujarat have come forward to support the Congress en masse. This is a change for the better.
How many seats do you expect?
Certainly over 125.
(This article was originally published in Malayala Manorama)