Sitting in his cluttered office at the St Francis Xavier Church in Anand, Father Albert Delgado, the parish priest, revels in the fact that 24 hours before polling day, Adivasis are giving both the Congress and the BJP a run for their money - literally.
Fr Delgado has been working
for nearly three decades among tribals in the state, including nearly 20 years in South Gujarat, and is himself much sought after by the two main political parties in Gujarat - for the votes he can help them garner from the Adivasis who believe in him more than they do in politicians.
But these Adivasis are very different from those elsewhere in the country. "Gujarat's Adivasis are not Naxalites. They have a desire to be part of the mainstream and are aware that very little has been done for them in the past 10 years or more. Their ire is more against the government. They may not even be aware of what Narendra Modi stands for. And they are using their vote decisively," says writer-activist Ganesh Devy who has also spent the last three decades working among tribals in Gujarat.
Fr Delgado tries to tell Adivasis that it is morally wrong to accept money from political parties but he has only himself to blame for this transgression of values. The Adivasis have been educated by him and his colleagues, many of them in the English medium. They can read, write and make up their own minds.
"Today is our day," one of the Adivasis tells him. "For five years, the government had been bent on looting us. They take away our lands and other resources. So what's wrong if we relieve them of something one day in five years?"
And since they don't tell who they might vote for, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress can't be sure till the end. That is why the large voter turnout in the first phase has made both Modi and the Congress nervous.