Thought Box



by Vinta Nanda April 26 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 7 secs

Vinta Nanda spent two days with Sonal Patel and returns to tell us that the Congress Party’s choice to challenge Amit Shah is confident of a victory in the Gandhinagar constituency because people are done with divisive politics.

Embarking on a journey driven by curiosity and a desire to understand, I ventured to Gandhinagar, Gujarat, with the intent to witness the electoral battle brewing between Sonal Patel and the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah. Patel, a seasoned politician and the Congress Party's choice to challenge Shah in the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency, offered that I spend two days with her and accompany her as she went about her campaign and meetings.

So, I took the plunge and reached her home at 8am on the 23rd April 2024. I wanted to do a lengthy interview with her, and she said I should record it at the Sabarmati Ashram.

Interview at Sabarmati Ashram - Reflecting on the legacy of Gandhian ideals   

At 62 years old, Sonal Patel stands as a formidable figure within the All India Congress Committee (AICC), serving as a secretary while co-managing the party's affairs in Mumbai and western Maharashtra. Her decision to contest against Amit Shah emanated not from personal ambition, but from a commitment to the party's cause. She asserted that the prevailing anti-incumbency sentiment in Gujarat stemmed from the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) failure to address the aspirations of the people.

Meeting workers at the ashram and discussing how redevelopment has impacted them - nurturing roots of community amidst change

Patel lamented the alleged intimidation tactics employed by the ruling party against Congress workers in her constituency. She expressed a desire for a "level-playing field" in the electoral arena, highlighting instances where BJP's administrative machinery purportedly hindered the Congress' campaign efforts. Despite these challenges, she’s determined, ready to confront Shah on the electoral battleground.

Tea break at Navrangpura tapri - Conversations brewing over dissatisfaction and grievances. Engaging discussions with people at the tapri - Voices echoing aspirations and concerns  

Drawing from her own experiences and familial ties to the politics of Navrangpura, Patel articulated a narrative of grassroots ascent shared by both herself and Amit Shah. She’s clear that the voters’ decision will transcend titles and positions, focusing instead on the candidates' commitment to public service. Some folk who spoke to Patel at the tea stall requested her to visit the nearby basti. They wanted her to see the problems people were facing there.

Visit to the basti led by locals - Connecting with grassroots realities. Women sharing their struggles with her - Empathy blooming amidst shared narratives  

Women said they were facing acute water shortages and it was becoming more difficult by the day. Patel assured them she would look into matters and help resolve them. As Patel went around the Gandhinagar constituency, engaging with voters and addressing their concerns, she talked about the Congress local leadership and how hard they were working despite against several challenges they face of threat and intimidation.

Strategic planning at Congress office - Forging paths forward amidst camaraderie  

Delving deeper into the core issues affecting the constituency, Patel says that the widening gap between rhetoric and reality within the BJP's governance is making the electorate restless. While infrastructure development may be visible, the underlying socioeconomic disparities remained unaddressed, exacerbating the plight of the marginalized communities, and the strategic approach of the ruling government to polarise, divide and rule, has further deepened the mistrust between the majority and the various minority communities.

Encountering urgency for visibility from a worker - A call for change resonating in desperation  

People are not happy with what has become of Gujarat over the last thirty years of BJP rule in the state, and almost 25 years of present Prime Minister’s politics of Hindutva.

Conversations with Muslims highlighting their concerns - Building bridges across diverse communities. Addressing the congregation at Kallol Masjid - Bridging promises with solidarity  

In her assessment of the BJP's electoral prospects, Patel debunked the narrative of an assured victory, challenging the party's claim of sweeping success in Gujarat.

Visit to Chandkheda Gaon revealing struggles of the Rabari community - Tracing the shadows of livelihood loss

Her candid analysis reflects a nuanced understanding of the electorate's pulse, rooted in years of political engagement and grassroots activism.

Listening to grievances of upper-income groups at Godrej City - Dissecting complexities of urban development. 

As I concluded my visit to Gandhinagar, the encounter with Sonal Patel offered not only insights into the electoral dynamics of Gujarat but also a glimpse into the resilience of individuals committed to democratic ideals amidst the tumult of partisan politics.

Rally at minority-concentrated areas - Igniting hope and enthusiasm amidst polarization  

In her pursuit of electoral victory, Patel embodies the spirit of democracy, standing firm against the tide of incumbency and intimidation, while championing the cause of the common citizen.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.