Ahmedabad: Former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, who once routed Congress from Saurasthra to pave for BJP’s rise in Gujarat, is trying to undo what he did 30 years back! His party GPP and Congress are set to snatch at least half of the 48 assembly seats of Saurashtra from Narendra Modi’s BJP, on Thursday. And if he succeeds in what he has set out to do, he will have effectively upset his bête noir’s Delhi dreams.
Interestingly, Rajkot is the place where Modi launched his career in RSS from and also the place where he fought his life’s first political battle in February 2002, just a few days before Godhra was to change India’s political landscape. But a lot has changed here between 2002 and 2012.
In 2007 elections, the fight was between mighty BJP and a fragmented Congress. The issue was development and a sans-the-riots clean image’ of Modi. This time it will be a three dimensional battle. Pundits say that Keshubhai is expected to dent 50 to 60% of the BJP votes. Clean image is losing shin as apart from Modi, his key ministers Dilip Sanghani and Parshottam Solanki are facing serious charges.
Development is no more an issue here as 32 farmer suicides earlier this year due to delayed and weak monsoon can change the sentiment. The water scarcity due to drought like situation has been the Achilles’ heel for Modi in Saurashtra.
o one, even the BJP, is talking about improving its tally here. Retaining the 38 seats that it has now is seen as an impossible task. Insiders say that anything above 24 for Modi, would be seen as an unrealistic target. While Modi concentrated on attacking Congress, corruption and Gandhi family during his campaign here, he took great care to not utter a single word against 84-year-old rebel Keshubhai, who continued his tirade against Modi, BJP under Modi and basic issues of the people. Congress targeted corruption under Modi regime and development which has largely eluded this part of the state.
The whole poll debate here is about the Leuva Patels – the community that Keshubhai belongs to – who influence results on 17 seats with their massive voting power in the region. It can make or mar the future of the party that wants power. Though the community leaders, whose word can be decisive for millions, are not directly involved in elections but it’s apparent that they support ‘Bapa’ and they will help GPP score.
Second biggest community is going to be Koli vote bank. Tainted, minister of state for fisheries Parshottam Solanki is actually fighting the growing influence of Congress MP Kunvarji Bavaliya, who also belongs to his community but enjoys a clean and popular image.
They are both strategically fielded by their parties in areas which can dent the vote bank of opposition parties. Bavaliya in Botad may influence votes in other areas of Bhavnagar, a stronghold of Solanki. Besides, Solanki is down with his illness and high voltage personal fight against leader of the opposition Shaktisinh Gohil in Bhavnagar rural.
On the other hand, BJP is banking high on its voters in urban areas, Kadva Patels and other upper castes – Brahmins, Jains, Lianas and others. It is also banking high on expectations that Modi magic will make some inroads into the Congress vote banks.
The highlight of the campaigning has been basic necessities – water, infrastructure and employment. Both the parties have experienced dissidence. Congress experienced it in Junagadh, Rajkot and Jamnagar, while BJP has to take steps to control damage in Bhavnagar, Veraval and some other minor pockets.
In addition to anti incumbency, dissent is playing a major role in re-election of Dilip Sanghani, Vasuben Trivedi, Kanu Bhalala, Vaju Vala, Govind Patel, Mahendra Mashru, Hari Patel and others.