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Sonal Patel, Cong’s pick in Gandhinagar, says not hesitant to fight LS poll against Amit Shah

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Gandhinagar, Apr 13 (PTI) Sonal Patel, whom the Congress has fielded against Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency, said she was not at all hesitant to fight the upcoming election against the senior BJP leader.

The 62-year-old leader, who is All India Congress Committee (AICC) secretary and the party co-incharge of Mumbai and western Maharashtra, claimed that anti-incumbency prevails as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has failed to fulfil the aspirations of people.

She also accused the ruling party of intimidating Congress workers in her constituency and sought a “level-playing field” in fighting elections.

In an interview to PTI, Patel said, “I had not asked for a ticket from the party as I was busy with Congress’s affairs in Maharashtra, where I am co-incharge of Mumbai and Western Maharashtra. But the party fielded me from Gandhinagar and I accepted it.” “Our workers are being intimidated, nobody is ready to rent a space to us for organising meetings of party workers fearing that they will be targeted once the elections are over. Police are calling our city and district leaders to police stations in some frivolous cases from the past. BJP is using administrative machinery to fight elections,” she alleged.

This shows that they are scared and not on a firm footing, Patel said, adding, “I don’t know if Amit Shah is aware of these tactics that BJP’s local leaders are employing. Everybody should get a level-playing field to fight elections.” An architect by profession, Patel said she was not hesitant in taking on Shah in Gandhinagar, a BJP bastion from where former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former deputy prime minister L K Advani had contested elections.

“He (Shah) may be the home minister of the country, but we have seen him from the days when he was a common BJP worker,” she said.

“From a grassroot worker from Naranpura (Amit Shah’s assembly constituency when he was MLA) he has risen to be the home minister of the country. My father was Congress municipal councillor from Naranpura and we have seen him grow. I have also worked my way up from grassroots like him,” she said.

“And when people cast their vote, they will not choose (their MP) thinking that he is the home minister or that I am a simple party worker,” she said, adding that that was the reason she did not hesitate even a bit to contest the election against Shah.

The Congress had earlier fielded bigwigs like former election commissioner T N Seshan, actor Rajesh Khanna to give a fight to BJP heavyweights from Gandhinagar seat.

Explaining the reason why the Congress did not field any heavyweight candidate from outside against Shah, she said, “There are two problems in calling heavyweight candidates from outside – the person does not know anything about the area and he has to be hand-held, and after the defeat when the candidate leaves, a vacuum is created. So it is better to choose a local candidate instead.” After her name was announced, Patel began campaigning by organising voters’ meetings and visiting different areas of the constituency.

“Our campaigning is going on and it will pick up pace,” she said.

A video went viral, which showed her being stopped from campaigning in Pethapur village in Gandhinagar due to the ongoing controversy over BJP’s Rajkot candidate and Union minister Parshottam Rupala’s remarks against the Rajput or Kshatriya community.

“We are not linked to the controversy in any way and we have criticised Rupala’s remark against the Kshatriya community, but we were not allowed in Pethapur village. A video of the incident went viral and we later came to know those who stopped us were BJP workers. As they cannot campaign in villages dominated by the Kshatriya community, they did not allow us to do the same,” she said.

On the main issues in the constituency, she said anti-incumbency prevails as the BJP has failed to fulfil the aspirations of the people of the state.

“They have built infrastructure, but the poor are becoming poorer and the rich are becoming richer. There are no employment opportunities in villages and land holding by farmers is reducing as it keeps on getting divided through generations. When a villager moves to a city, he faces extreme inflation. BJP has no answer to these problems,” she said.

“BJP’s claim of winning over 400 seats is nothing but rhetoric and I am sure that it will not be able to win all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat this time,” she said.

In 2014 and 2019, the BJP had all 26 seats in the state.

Patel, who studied architecture from Centre of Environment Planning and Technology (CEPT) University, is urban and regional planner and is a member of many architecture organisations. She also served as president of Gujarat Pradesh Mahila Congress Committee from 2012 to 2018. After that she was elevated to the post of AICC secretary.

Patel said she has decided to file her nomination papers without any pomp and show as she does not want to trouble party workers.

“I have decided to go with just four or five women to file the nomination form on April 16. Why give trouble to party workers?” she said.

The Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat will be held in a single phase on May 7 and the deadline for filing of nominations is April 19. PTI PD NP

Go and Vote: Issued in Public Interestbengaluru

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