Former Gujarat Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who quit the Congress earlier this year and resigned from the state Assembly, has formed a new party, the Jan Vikalp Morcha, which is contesting the ongoing elections from around 100 seats. He talked to The Sunday Guardian briefly at his residence in Gandhinagar last week. Excerpts:
Q. Now that you have a new party, what role are you...
A. This is my experiment, this is not a party, I have formed a morcha, Jan Vikalp, vikalp means an alternative to BJP and Congress, because in both parties, the selection of candidates is done at the eleventh hour, without any homework…I’m asking a question: In India, is there democracy in a political party? On record, I say “no”, not a single party is running democratically. Dictatorial parties are running. For the selection of the candidate, the high command is there, who do not know which candidate to put where.
Q. But you are fighting elections, aren’t you?
A. Of course, more than a hundred candidates are there. This is my experiment. Experiment means I would like to request political parties to introduce primaries. Give six months to your party workers to select your (candidate for) MLA, your representative in Lok Sabha…give them guidelines. Then have one or two names and then you select. Then give him one to three months to go to people. Why are you spending crores of rupees at the 11th hour? In one month, in Gujarat, more than Rs 1,000 crore will flow like water. And then there is this artificial prohibition. So there is an abundance of liquor and cash. It’s a mockery of democracy. I appeal to all political parties that please take care of the people, who have trusted you. You are hiring agencies to write slogans, spending money to cheat people, your voters. Don’t cheat your voters.
Q. But how can you change the system without joining hands with a major party?
A. On 18 December, maybe BJP will form the government, maybe it will be Congress. I don’t have a problem. I am not here to get a majority to form government. I am talking to the people, who make up their mind influenced by heavy marketing. So I’m requesting voters: think twice, don’t be mad about marketing. Parties are spending money like anything on marketing and voters come under that influence sometimes.
Q. Are you hoping to win any seats?
A. I will try my level best to get the maximum out of 100…Big parties are spending money like anything. But (in my case), without spending money, candidates are filing nominations and contesting elections.
Q. What do you think is going to happen in the elections this time?
A. For the second phase of the election, distribution of seats (tickets) especially by Congress has been chaotic. Such an old party, but it is giving tickets to those who are not from Congress, they are taking their guidance, they are not giving tickets to their own party workers who have worked for so many years. Congress does not know how to run Gujarat, how to select candidates, how to talk with like-minded people. They had to do this for over three months, why at the 11th hour?
Q. Do you think Rahul Gandhi is not being guided properly?
A. Rahul Gandhi is all right. The local people, they don’t know when or how to talk to Rahul Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi is a very open man. It is the locals who have to think it out, where to make adjustments, where to have seat adjustments with NCP, JDU, where to work with Patidars, Thakor Sena, Dalit Sena. Do the homework. Why didn’t you do it?
Q. So they have messed up.
A. Exactly. There was no homework by any leader as far as Gujarat is concerned; without homework they are playing blind…They do not know how to distribute tickets on merit. Congress is divided into groups, sub-groups…it’s mine, it’s yours. So there is conspiracy, competition in selection of candidates. It’s all chaos, in the second phase.
Q. How many seats do you think the Congress will win?
A. I can’t say, it is not my business.
Q. Do you regret leaving the Congress?
A. I left Congress six months ago. I tried my level best since last one year to do some homework. There may be five-ten candidates in each constituency. We are going to give the ticket to one of them. But what about the others? Give the human touch, call them, talk to them; say we will look about you. But there is no human touch in any political parties.