Ahead of the assembly elections in Gujarat, the state Congress’ bid to energise its cadre in Surat by making new appointments has, however, raised questions whether the changes are effective enough?
Hasmukh Desai was appointed as the chief of its unit in Surat and four working presidents to the city Congress committee were also inducted. This is the first time in the history of Surat Congress and state party as well that four working presidents have been appointed in the city.
The new working presidents are Bhupendra Solanki, Ashok Pinpale, Firoz Malik and Deep Nayak.
“This reveals that the party is on the brink in the city and workers have lost trust and faith in its leadership,” says Raju Saluke, a senior journalist from Surat.
The Congress party does not have a mass and aggressive leader in Surat. “Just to accommodate four warring groups, the party must have appointed four working presidents, but will they be able restore the party’s image and build confidence among the voters and workers?” said Saluke.
Once the forte of Congress, Surat was conquered by BJP in 1990. Since then the party has been performing badly in every election, be it civic polls, Assembly or the Lok Sabha. The party has no representatives in the Surat Municipal Corporation as well as the state Assembly from here.
According to the Elections Commission’s record, the Congress party’s last MLA got elected from Surat North, West and Choryasi constituencies in 1985 elections and from the Surat East seat last MLA got elected in 2002. Post-delimitation in 2009, the city has 12 seats, earlier rural seats like Olpad and Kamrej are now part of the city, eight more seats were carved — Varachha Road, Karanj, Limbayat, Udhna, Majura, Katargam. Since 2012, all 12 seats are with BJP.
“It is a hard fact that the Congress is really in a very bad condition in the city,” accepts newly appointed city president Hasmukh Desai, but with four working presidents, the party has tried to do social engineering. Desai is a Patidar, Bhupendra Solanki is a Dalit and original Surti, Deep Nayak is Anavil Brahmin, upper caste from South Gujarat, Ashok Pinpale is a Marathi from the Khandesh area of Maharashtra and Firoz Malek represents the minority.
Desai explains that these castes/communities have good numbers of electors, dominating in minimum two to three Assembly seats. This will help in building the party base to win seats and start from zero.
“The biggest drawback for the party is that its leaders have lost contact with the workers as well as voters, that will be addressed,” said working president Bhupendra Solanki, and added, “I and the new team will start contacting old veterans and party workers, who are inactive. This time it will be personal meetings, no telephonic contacts, this will build the party again. Strengthening the party is the only solution and we will do it.”
Solanki and Desai are confident that the new strategy will work for the party and this time the party will bounce back and win Assembly seats.