Congress leaders, activists allege threats in Gandhinagar during voting

Gandhinagar has been a BJP bastion since 1989.

Credit : Indie Journal


Congress leaders and human rights activists have alleged that, in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar constituency, from where top BJP leader Amit Shah is contesting the Lok Sabha elections, the leaders campaigning for Congress are being intimidated and threatened by the police, for the benefit of the BJP. A letter written to the Election Commission of India (ECI) in this regard by a human rights defender has alleged that ‘a large number of people are getting calls from police officials, even of IG range, cajoling them to become inactive and not to campaign for Congress’. BJP has denied the allegations.

“I started receiving calls from people in Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency, that such undue pressure was being put on community leaders, different party activists, against campaigning for the INDIA block candidate Sonal Patel last week. I visited the constituency from April 14 to April 18 morning. I heard several people, who I cannot name as they fear further harassment, who told me stories of intimidation by police,” Human Rights Defender Shabnam Hashmi said.

She said that even the district president and other local leaders of Congress were being intimidated by the police, asking them to stop campaigning, which was corroborated by the Congress candidate Sonal Patel herself as well.

“IG level police personnel are calling our district presidents, other leaders. They tell them, Shah is going to win anyway, then why are they campaigning for me. They say that Shah has to win by the highest margin in the country, hence our leaders should stop campaigning,” Patel told Indie Journal.

She further said, “Nobody is ready to rent us space for office or for organising public meetings. We are in a financial crunch as the Income Tax Department has frozen the bank accounts of Congress. We are trying to crowdfund to help fund our campaign. However, because of the intimidation by the BJP, people are scared to donate to us as well, as they fear consequences. In fact, they ask me, why am I contesting.”



The letter written to the ECI states that while some activists and leaders were told not to campaign, some were asked to lay low.

Hashmi has written the letter after interacting with over 200 community leaders, student leaders, ordinary people, Congress and AAP members and district level leaders, some candidates fighting from other parties and Patel as well. She visited six of the seven assembly constituencies that come under the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency.

Congress leader Umakant Mankad, who has been looking after the campaigning in the Gandhinagar constituency, also alleged that Shah and his campaigners have been violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) in Gandhinagar.

“They have put up hardings, banners that clearly violate the MCC, everywhere in the constituency. During Shah’s roadshow the day before yesterday (April 18), a stage was set up every 2 kilometres, where Shah and others spoke of the Ram Mandir and other communal things,” Mankad alleged.

He further said that even the administrative officials in the constituency were complicit with the BJP.

“Seven of us went to file the candidature form. The District Collector said that so many people could not be in the room and asked that two of us to leave. However, when Shah filed his candidature yesterday, there were at least 20 people in the room and they were welcomed by the Collector,” Mankad said.

A few days ago, there was a news story that Patel was barred from entering the Pethapur village by the locals in the village. However, Patel has alleged that it was not the villagers, but the BJP activists, who stopped her vehicle.

Mankad says that such incidents have been happening quite often in the constituency.

“Almost every day, the police stop our cars that have posters and banners and question us, wasting our precious time,” he said.

He also said that such things have been happening in other constituencies as well.

When asked if this is the first time that the Congress leaders are facing these challenges, Patel said, “They tried influencing the polling last time, they tried to ensure that people from certain communities would not at all vote.”

The letter mentions that ‘in 2019, Juhapura and many other Muslim areas had witnessed disruption as antisocial elements supported by police and BJP MLAs had disrupted polling by snatching away the election lists, throwing away the tables of volunteers outside booths and creating a ruckus so that more voters don’t come out to vote’.

When asked about all these allegations, Gujarat BJP State Head (Convenor) Media Yagnesh Dave denied them.

“This is all false. BJP will not do any such things, the party already has a good lead in the constituency. All the MLAs in the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituencies had won with a good margin, so Shah already has a lead of around 8 lakh votes, in a way. Shah will win the election,” Dave said.

He also added that BJP does not need to intimidate anyone, in fact, BJP does not need to tell anyone to vote for them.

There were also allegations that school teachers, college students were forced to attent Shah roadshow on April 18.



Dave responded to those saying, “I challenge them to show even one person or even one person’s statement, then we will see. Congress has nothing to offer to the people, hence all they can do is make such allegations. Even their MLAs and former presidents are leaving them,” Dave said.

Hashmi and Patel have also alleged that several community leaders were also facing intimidation and were threatened not to vote, or they would be booked by the police. In her letter to the ECI, Hashmi recounts the experiences of several community leaders who were called by the police and also threatened that cases would be registered against them if they campaign for Congress. Further, she also wrote that chairmen and secretaries of various cooperative bodies including cooperative banks, milk cooperatives, APMC, Purchase Unions, GSC bank etc. were summoned and have been instructed to campaign for Amit Shah.

However, Indie Journal could not verify these testimonies independently.

While Congress leaders said that they have complained to the ECI and other forums about this intimidation and the MCC violations, they have been completely ignored. Indie Journal also wrote to the ECI about the same, but had not received any response till the time the story was published. The story will be updated if the ECI reverts to the email. 

“All we have to say is that we are not afraid. We will fight,” Mankad said.

Gandhinagar has been a BJP bastion since 1989. Shah contested the election the first time in 2019 and won against Congress’s TN Seshan with a large margin.