Sonia Gandhi in Valsad on Thursday. Picture by Nishit Dholabhai
Sonia Gandhi would have been reassured on Thursday by the vibes in Valsad as she lashed out at the BJP and Narendra Modi.
The party that wins in Valsad forms the government at the Centre, it is said on the basis of past results. If so, the warm reception Sonia received in this seat in south Gujarat could be reason enough to question a “Modi wave”.
“Desh banane ke liye, nazariya chahiye, jazba chahiye, karuna chahiye aur bada dil chahiye (To build a nation you need vision, enthusiasm, kindness and a large heart),” Sonia told a large gathering that had waited for hours in the sun to hear her.
The country has before it two ideologies today, she said — one based on Mahatma Gandhi’s and Sardar Patel’s ideas of a vibrant democracy and the other that goes against the country’s “Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb” (inclusive culture). The Congress is not a political party but an inclusive ideology, a confident Sonia said.
The gathering of mostly tribals from Dangs district and even as far as Maharashtra may not have understood the phrase Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. But, as residents said, they did not need to. “They just need to see that Sonia Gandhi visited this place and the message would reach the villages,” local journalist Javed Khan said, adding that village elders in Dangs wouldn’t hear of the “kamal phool (lotus, the BJP symbol)”.
“There is no question that anyone else will win from here, all my forefathers have voted for Congress and so will I,” said Anil Kambdi from Pipaldahad village, who drove three hours to attend the rally and brought 15 people with him.
Thakorbhai Patel, from urban Chikhli located on the National Highway 8, derided Modi for speaking “like a child” and “not showing decency”.
Infighting among local BJP leaders has bolstered Congress hopes. Kanji Patel, who was denied the BJP ticket, is sulking. A few days ago, city BJP chief Hitesh Bhandari and MLA Bharatbhai Patel were believed to be involved in a brawl over parking a car.
Sonia, who has never missed a visit to the constituency since 2004, mocked Modi’s claims of bringing “heaven to earth”. “The debt of the Gujarat government stands at 1.75 lakh crore, every second child below the age of five is malnourished here and the school dropout ratio is highest,” Sonia said. “Those who earn more than Rs 11 a day are not considered poor by the Gujarat government. Now you decided if this is swarg (heaven).”
Gujarat votes on April 30