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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Modi eyes Congress turf with district promise

Mahesh Langa, Hindustan Times  Ahmedabad, September 26, 2012
First Published: 23:08 IST(26/9/2012) | Last Updated: 23:11 IST(26/9/2012)

Going for a third straight term, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has used his knowledge of the state’s political topography to announce four new districts and six blocks, all of them in areas where the Congress has a strong presence.

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The BJP strongman is pitching his plan to voters with the promise of better governance in smaller districts carved out of Junagadh and Bhavnagar in Saurashtra region, Vadodara in central Gujarat and Sabarkantha in the northern part of the state.

Modi’s four proposed districts are Somnath and Botad in Saurashtra, Chhota Udepur in Vadodara and Arvalli in Sabarkantha. The new districts will come into being from January 26, 2013, if he is voted back to power.

According to Modi, new districts will ensure better flow of developments funds for underdeveloped areas. With the new districts, the BJP also stands to gain from the formation of local bodies such as panchayats, where the ambitions of many party workers can be accommodated. Several areas in the proposed Somnath district have a sizeable presence of OBCs, Muslims and Dalits and are considered Congress bastions.

Jasabhai Barad, former Congress MLA of Somnath, termed Modi’s move a poll gimmick. “The new district announcement is a carrot Modi is holding out to woo voters,” said Barad, who had lost the 2007 polls by only 2,500 votes.

With Botad district, Modi is also trying to blunt the impact of former CM Keshubhai Patel, who quit the BJP in August and launched the Gujarat Parivartan Party, in Saurashtra.

Chhota Udepur and Arvalli are in tribal-dominated areas that traditionally back the Congress.

Sonia campaign kicks off on October 2

After rattling the ruling BJP in election-bound Gujarat with pre-poll promises of affordable housing in urban areas and free plots in rural pockets, Congress is set to take the fight to cm Narendra Modi through party president Sonia Gandhi.

Gandhi is likely to set the campaign tone for the Congress by addressing rallies in Porbandar and Rajkot on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

“I have urged the Congress president to address farmers’ conventions on October 2 in Saurashtra region and Gujarat Congress has received a positive response from the UPA chairperson,” the party’s state unit chief Arjun Modhvadia said on Wednesday. The polls are likely in two phases by the end of November and early December. - HTC

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