Elegant bungalows with manicured lawns and blossoming daliahs, tree-lined, well-lit streets leading to tobacco fields, a centralised water purification plant, a fresh water lake for boating, specialised hi-tech hospitals — that’s Dharmaj, Gujarat’s richest village for you.
The catch lies in the fact that for most part of the year, the village is deserted, the houses locked up. In central Gujarat’s Kheda district, the Patel-dominated village of Dharmaj has the following calling card: About 70 per cent of the population are NRIs, coming from destinations as far and wide as the US, Australia, Germany or Slovenia.
This year, the village is full to its brim. The reason: elections and chief minister Narendra Modi. Forty-three-year-old Jayesh Patel, owner of a chain of motels in Georgia, says: “Inspiring things have been happening here. Last 45 years the Congress did nothing, but Modi has ushered in unimaginable development. Only Modi can bring about an enabling environment for NRI investments in the state.” Florida-based Ishwarbhai Shantilal Bhatt adds, “The US may well have denied Modi a visa but will they continue to deny him the facility when he becomes Prime Minister?”
Flooding social networking site Orkut, conducting an SMS campaign are some of the ways NRIs are employing to campaign for Modi. “The NRIs do not have voting rights, but there is no prohibition on campaigning,” says Chandrakant Chhotabhai Patel of the wonder village.