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GST, Patels seek to rock BJP boat

Sunil Raghu, Ahmedabad, DH News Service, Dec 8 2017, 1:03 IST
A woman gets an Electronic Voting Machine painted on her hair at a parlour to promote voting ahead of Gujarat state Assembly election in Ahmedabad on Thursday. Reuters

A woman gets an Electronic Voting Machine painted on her hair at a parlour to promote voting ahead of Gujarat state Assembly election in Ahmedabad on Thursday. Reuters

While South Gujarat has been a BJP bastion, there is some resentment within the party that it does not get sufficient representation in the government.

"We have been sending many winning legislators from the region, but it is leaders from North Gujarat and Saurashtra who corner all the plum posts, leaving little for South Gujarat's representatives. No one listens to our concerns or understand them," said a BJP candidate for a constituency in South Gujarat.

Despite this, the South Gujarat region in 2012 sent 28 BJP legislators from the 35 Assembly seats, with Congress getting only six and one going to Chhotu Vasava, who was with the JD(U).

Of these, 11 seats are tribal seats, two Scheduled Caste seats and three rurban seats with a 50: 50 ratio of urban and rural areas.

The city of Surat accounts for a little less than half the seats in the region with 16 seats. Of these, 12 are urban and four rurban seats.

It has been a traditional BJP stronghold. During the last elections, the BJP cornered 15 of the 16 seats here, the only one Congress won was that in Mandvi, a Scheduled Tribe seat.

Among the four urban seats in Surat include the three Scheduled Tribes seats of Mangrol, Mahuva and Mandvi and the one Scheduled Caste seat in Bardoli.

The sugar and milk cooperatives in the region have a huge influence on the electorate.

The BJP has major control over both. With the price of sugarcane at a high, BJP's hopes are on a high, too.

A diamond and textiles hub, Surat has been the eye of storm after demonetisation and GST were announced by the Modi government.

Visuals of large-scale opposition and protest marches, including lathicharges on traders, especially those in the textile business, have done rounds for long.

Congress has been alleging that other than traders, it has hit small workers employed in these textile and diamond units.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi even visited several textile and diamond polishing units in his bid to reach out to the voters.

However, there is another aspect to the politics of diamond and textiles in the city.

Of the five lakh diamond workers, almost 75% to 80% are employed by 25-30 big units, with a turnover of up to Rs 7,000 crore per annum.

The diamond barons have been loyal BJP men for over two decades now, as Narendra Modi has nurtured close personal relations with them over the years.

A couple of days prior to polling day, these diamond barons generally hold an informal meeting of their workers and drop clear hints about their preference.

The workers generally do not go against the wishes of their bosses as many of them over the years have become financially self-sufficient thanks to these diamond barons.

As for the textiles industry, leaders within local BJP unit feel that the textile workers are spread across the constituency and would not be able to dent their overall juggernaut in most of the seats.

The other major factor is the large presence of people with roots in Saurashtra region, mostly Patels.

This area has seen massive rallies in support of Patel quota stir over last two-and-a-half years.

In fact, Patel quota stir leader Hardik Patel recently held one of his most successful rallies in the city and setting up a record in Facebook live view of over 37,000 views and getting an invite from Mark Zuckerberg to visit Facebook headquarters in US.

"You (Patels) can change the fate of six of the 12 constituencies - Kamrej, Katargaam, Limbayat, Olpaad, Udhna and Varachha. Do not let go of this opportunity to teach BJP a lesson," Hardik had said at the rally.

However, on ground, BJP sympathisers are working hard to nullify Hardik's Patel card with the plea of appealing to the 'nationalistic' sentiments of the electorates.

DH News Service

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