Dhirubhai Haribhai Gajera speaks at a furious pace, as if there may be no tomorrow. That may well be true of his political future.
Gajera’s career hinges on the results of the December 11 poll in his constituency Surat North. For while Keshubhai Patel may be the Bhishma Pitamah of the dissidents in the Gujarat BJP blessing their efforts but not participating closely in their activities Gajera is their uncrowned king or better still, supreme commander.
He has won the seat three consecutive times since 1995 but always on a BJP ticket. This time he is fighting as a Congressman.
He was among the six BJP MLAs suspended earlier this year for openly opposing Narendra Modi. Subsequently, they all resigned and joined the Congress.
Gajera has about 15 minutes to spare for Hindustan Times amid a hectic schedule. But the very mention of Modi gets him animated.
“I know him since 1986. I never kept any relation with him other than through party work. I always knew that he would finish the BJP one day. He has the mind of a criminal,” said Gajera.
He added that he had complained about the chief minister to the BJP way back in 2001. “But the BJP hierarchy is like Dhritarashtra, blind to Duryodhona’s negative sides.”
Gajera needs all the support that Congress can give him. Locals say he might have got the ticket and showed enough courage by openly taking on a very powerful adversary but whether that courage will translate into votes remains to be seen.
There are over 25,000 Muslim voters in the 2.04 lakh electorate in his constituency. Would they forget his more than 25-year-old association with BJP? “My constituency is a mini-India. There are Muslims, Biharis, people from Orissa and Bengal and Patels. I will get their support.”
With an aim to wean more BJP supporters, Gajera and other dissidents had formed the Sardar Patel Utkarsha Samiti soon after they resigned. It was essentially to attract the Patel community Gajera himself is a Patel from Saurashtra but settled in Surat. There are around 40,000 Patel votes in the constituency. But that chunk is likely to be divided between him and his opponent, BJP’s Nanubhai Vanani, also a Patel.
What could also go against the 55-year-old is that most of the other rebel MLAs are fighting from Saurashtra; he is the only one in south Gujarat. But he seemed confident.
“I have worked for the good of the people. Under Modi’s rule, there has been no development. Whatever little happened was only for a few people. I am going to each and every home in my constituency and talking to as many people as I can,” he said.
Gajera knows that’s the least he could do because if he fails, he would go down in Gujarat’s political history as one more BJP rebel after Shankarsinh Vaghela who in the end did not have what it takes.