A lot has changed in Kutch, the district devastated by the 2001 quake, but its political cross-current is not easily visible to a casual visitor.
The dusty towns of Bhuj, Anjar and Bachau as well as village houses have been rebuilt — this time with proper, wide roads and other civic facilities and an ultra-modern hospital, too, has come up though not many specialised doctors have joined it.
But, the biggest change here is political — the BJP’s most prominent leader from the district, former chief minister Suresh Mehta, is now working overtime to defeat the saffron candidate.
Mehta, Kutch’s tallest political figure, was the first one from the region to become chief minister. He was defeated in this traditional seat in 2002 as part of the Sangh Parivar’s grand plans to eliminate any serious alternative to Narendra Modi.
Chhabildas Patel, who had defeated Mehta last time, has been renominated by the Congress and Mehta is supporting him to settle his scores with the BJP, which he quit on Saturday after his four-decade-long association.
BJP nominee Dhanji Sendhani is a construction contractor with a ‘reputation’ of building sub-standard roads. On the other hand, Chhabildas has built a good reputation by participating in quake rehabilitation projects. This reputation, in addition to the internal sabotage by the Sangh, had helped him defeat Mehta in 2002, though by a slender margin. Now with Mehta supporting him, many believe it will be a cakewalk.
Mehta told HT that the Congress is likely to bag all six seats in Kutch this time. The only two BJP nominees — Narendrasinh Jadeja (Abadasa) and Gopal Dhua (mundra) — who had won in 2002 are now Congress candidates after leaving their parent party in protest against Modi’s alleged ‘autocracy’.