Ahmedabad: The BJP and the Congress are locked in a tough battle in North Gujarat which was epicentre of Patidar agitation in the state launched two years ago.The BJP had done very well in the region in the previous poll , bagging most of the seats, but the contest will not be as easy this time.
Sensing the change in the mood, the Congress is devoting much time and energy in the area. Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi spent three days in a row in this part and addressed a number of meetings. He also visited some houses and sat with family members, hearing their grievances.
The task of repeating 2012 performance in the region by the BJP has become difficult also because some other backward and Dalit leaders, besides Hardik Patel, are lending support to the Congress. All of them had backed the party in the previous poll. Another difference is that there was a Modi wave at that time which is not visible now.
Present leaders of the party in the state do not stand any where near him or his close confidante Amit Shah. Luckily ( luckily for the party), the Congress leadership in the state is equally weak, if not more. Things may change in weeks to come when polling date draws near. At present, the contest seems to be keener between the two.
Though some anti-BJP leaders predict big gain to the Congress in the region, pushing the BJP behind, it appears to be far-fetched. Gain to the Congress , however, is very much on the card at present. A visit to a village in this region which is dominated by backward castes only gives this kind of indication.
Ghumasan is one of the villages in Kandi assembly constituency in Mehsana district in north Gujarat, this correspondent visited. Most of the people talked to in this large village of 6000 population did not have many good words for the present head of the state, though they have all praise for Modi. The constituency is being represented by a Congress man, Ramesh Chavda, who is a first timer. Either the BJP or the Congress has been winning this seat.
” Although Patels and some other backward castes have voted in favour of the BJP in last three or four elections, the area has been neglected by the party. Nothing has been done for the benefit of the people in recent years”, moans Bharatbhai Rewari, a Yadav.
” All of us, thus,have decided to back the Congress this time”, he declares. Rewari , besides being dairy owner, is a village Panchayat Sarpanch. In his opinion, the Congress is much better placed than the BJP in the region. ” The BJP will suffer badly in this part”, he adds. To a question why does he think the party is facing tough challenge this time, he says, ” look at the visits BJP leaders are paying to the region this time. In previous polls not many had come to the area because they were sure of victory”.
A social activist, Rahul Mehta, who is fighting for Right to Recall provision, too, believes that there may be five per cent fall in voting percentage in favour of the BJP, but does not predict a Congress majority. ” The BJP may lose 15-20 seats, but that will not put the Congress on the top. The party will form the government with lesser number”. Some other political pundits, though agreeing that the fight is tougher this time, make the same prediction.
The party spokesperson, Bhawna Dave, will go with none of them. ” We had won 40 of 64 seats in the region. The Congress was a poor second. We will do as well again”, she claims. The reason given for optimism is the division in Patel and other backward castes, the Congress is mainly backing on.
There is wait and watch in other circles.