Ahmedabad: The most pitched poll battles to be watched in this elections in Gujarat will be in Porbandar and Bhavnagar Rural. The BJP appears to be in a win-win situation on both the seats. If the party wins these seats, it would have humbled Shaktisinh Gohil and Arjunsinh Modhwadia, two Congress stalwarts who have caused it much humiliation in the past.
If the BJP loses on the two seats, the defeats would help it sideline two of its own most controversial leaders —Parshottam Solanki and Babu Bokhiria — who have caused it much embarrassment because of their crime connection.
Fielding Solanki against Gohil in Bhavnagar (rural) and Bokhiria against Modhwadia in Porbandar is something of a BJP masterstroke for yet another reason. Gohil is the leader of opposition in the current assembly and Modhwadia is the president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee. The two leaders are perhaps the most important campaigners of the state Congress.
The presence of Solanki, a powerful Koli leader, and Bokhiria, an influential leader of the Mer community, would ensure that Gohil and Modhwadia spend most of the time campaigning for themselves in their own respective constituencies. This would mean less time for rest of the state!
In comparison to the two Congress leaders, Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is contesting from Maninagar seat for the third consecutive time, will hardly need to spend any time in his constituency.
Further, the recent delimitation of constituencies has changed caste equations in Bhavnagar rural and Porbandar in such a way that the seats now appear to favour the BJP. Bhavnagar rural was created after the delimitation.
In the 2002 elections, Gohil had lost to BJP’s Sunil Oza by a margin of 10,034 votes from Bhavnagar South constituency but, in 2007, he won against BJP’s Jitu Vaghani by 7,134 (4.63%) votes. Solanki, on the other hand, has always beaten his nearest rivals by a minimum of 15% votes in all the past elections he has contested.
It may be mentioned here that Solanki had been contesting from Ghogha constituency since the 1998 elections. Ghogha, however, has been dissolved as an assembly seat and most of its voters are now voters of Bhavnagar rural. The caste equation in the newly created Bhavnagar rural seat now gives Solanki an advantage over Gohil.
Many members of the Congress party in Bhavnagar district are of the opinion that it would take a miracle for Gohil to win against Solanki because of the caste factor. Bhavnagar rural has 2,20,565 voters of which more than 25% belong to the Koli communityFrom p1
In contrast, the number of Kshatriya voters is just around 50,000. Gohil belongs to the Darbar community, one of the Ksatriya sub-castes. A Congress leader said that there is an unseen split in Kshatriya votes. The Darbars are upset with Karadia Rajputs and other sub-Kshatriya communities because they have started using Sinh after their names. “The Darbars feel only they have the right to use Sinh,” said a Congress leader.
A Congress poll strategist of Bhavnagar said that apart from Ghoga taluka, a significant chunk of Shihor has also been included in Bhavnagar rural. “Shihor is a semi-urban area and the BJP is in power at the taluka panchayat and municipality. There are nearly 18,000 voters from the Ahir-Rabari community,” he said. In Porbandar, Modhwadia would not be pushover but he would find it tough against former BJP minister and alleged mining mafia, Babu Bokhiriya. Modhwadia had come third in the 1998 election but defeated Bokhiriya in 2002 by a margin of 4400 votes, despite the Hindutva wave. He won again in 2007 but then his closest rival was Shantaben Odedara. Bokhiriya did not contest in the 2007 election because of his alleged involvement in an illegal mining scam. The recent delimitation has adversely affected Modhwadia in the number of voters supporting him.
There are 2,09,311 voters in Porbandar constituency after the delimitation. Of these, 52,800 belong to the Mer community followed by around 25,000 Brahmins and 25,000 Kharva community voters. Moreover, there are the Muslims and the Scheduled Castes who are traditionally loyal to the Congress. Both Modhwadia and Bokhiria belong to the Mer community.
Moreover, he has not been able to pay much attention to his constituency because of his obligations as president of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee. A leader of the Mer community from Porbandar said that as Modhwadia was not able to spare much time for his constituency, his brother was expected to fill in for him.
“But his brother, Rambhai Modhwadia, who was looking after his constituency, has failed in people’s expectations. This may cost Arjunbhai heavily,” he said.