The ruling BJP seems to have its work cut out to retain its hold on the politically crucial Saurashtra region.
With its 54 seats, Saurashtra, which sends the largest number of lawmakers to the legislature, has been a traditional bastion of the party since it came to power in 1995. But lately, a disenchantment seems to have set in, which the Congress and the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) of Keshubhai Patel expect to cash in on.
Parched Saurashtra has been feeling neglected — thanks to the government’s failure to deliver the Narmada waters. Following scanty rains this year, a drought like-situation has set in and so far, more than 40 farmers have committed suicide in the region.
Back in 2007, the BJP had promised in its poll manifesto that the Narmada project canals would be completed by 2010. “But despite the tall claims by the Narendra Modi government, the water has not reached the farmers and they feel cheated,” said Surendranagar Congress MP Soma Patel. “It is bound to reflect in the polls.”
The Congress, which already appears resurgent in the region, enjoys an added advantage: the advent of Keshubhai Patel’s party, which is expected to skew the pitch further for the BJP.
In fact, the triangular contest is expected to be at its most fierce across 20 Patel-dominated seats — including Rajkot, Amreli, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar. The Kolis have a presence in the coastal areas in Junagadh, Porbander, Bhavnagar and Surendranagar districts.
“The Congress is likely to field the largest number of OBC candidates and if Keshubhai’s party gets the support of the Patel voters, the BJP will suffer,” said a BJP MP. “Even if Keshubhai does not win from all the seats contested, his party will end up playing spoilsport. If the Congress, which appears strong in Jamnagar, Surendranagar, Junagadh and Bhavnagar, forges some tacit understanding with the GPP, it can create problems for the ruling party.”
“The situation is very fluid and unpredictable. Some clarity will emerge only after the names of the candidates are announced,” said a senior RSS leader from Rajkot.