Voter indifference to Narendra Modi’s development plank in the Charotar belt of central Gujarat may make it difficult for the BJP to repeat its spectacular performance of 2002.
Riding on the Hindutva wave after the post-Godhra riots, the BJP had swept Kheda and Anand districts, winning 15 of the 17 seats. The Kshatriya-Patel dominated region was till then considered a Congress bastion, but the BJP handed it a near total rout.
Five years later, though, local issues seem to have gained precedence over Godhra. Floods in the last two years, erratic power supply and lack of industrial development have emerged as the main issues.
“The Centre and state governments were found napping in the first year and their inefficiency was exposed the next year,” said shopkeeper, Vipin Kumar.
Modi is the BJP’s main campaigner here, but for the Congress there are many. Its top state leadership has the advantage of being from this region.
The party won three seats from the region in 2004. Union Textile Minister Shankarsingh Vaghela represents Kapadvanj in Kheda district, while MoS for Petroleum Dinsha Patel is the MP from the other seat in the same district. State party chief Bharatsinh Solanki is the Anand MP. His supporters describe him as a “future chief minister”, a claim the BJP scoffs at.
“The Congress is trying to misinform the people through its failed campaign. Narendrabhai enjoys strong support in the entire region and his work is there for all to see. The Opposition believes in minority appeasement, but it won’t work here,” said BJP leader Jaimin Patel.
However, Congressmen say lack of any emotional issue like Godhra is bound to spell doom for the BJP. “There has been no development since the BJP came to power. This is an industrial area with no industries. Modi talks of foreign investment and industrial development, but none of that is visible here. The fact here is farmers are getting electricity for less than six hours a day,” said Congress leader Nilesh Patel.