In Gujarat’s battle for Bharuch, BJP hopes to make inroads into new territory
Voters in 89 assembly segments in south Gujarat and parts of the Kutch and Saurashtra regions will vote on Thursday
SURAT/BHARUCH: On November 25, Congress leaders and workers paid tribute to their senior party leader and political strategist Ahmed Patel on the second anniversary of his death at Ahmedabad’s Congress Bhavan. But as the Congress contests its first assembly election in Gujarat in years without its trouble-shooter in chief who played a key role in the party’s 77-seat performance in 2017, it also faces a difficult election in his home district of Bharuch without him, where they have struggled despite his presence since 1995.
On the Bharuch seat, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has replaced its three-term sitting MLA Dushyant Patel with former MLA Ramesh Mistri, who won the seat in 2002 but wasn’t repeated in the next three elections. In the 2017 assembly election, Dushyant Patel defeated the Congress Jayeshbhai Patel, a farmer leader who died three years ago, with a victory margin of 33,090 votes.
In the Ankleshwar assembly segment, part of the Bharuch district, there is a direct contest between two brothers. The BJP’s two-term sitting MLA Ishwarsinh Patel has been fielded against his brother from the Congress, Vijaysinh alias Vallabh Patel. Ahmed Patel’s Piraman village is part of the Ankleshwar assembly constituency.
Like his party, the Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate for the Bharuch assembly segment Manhar Parmar is also a new entrant in Gujarat politics and believes it will succeed in upsetting the BJP’s projections. “This time, people want change… from the 27 years of BJP rule in Gujarat,” said Parmar, who underlined that his focus during his door-to-door campaign was to talk about Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi model.
Ramesh Mistri, a BJP candidate from the Bharuch assembly constituency, brushed aside the claim. “I am confident of winning the seat with a huge victory margin. I do not have any direct contest with Congress, and AAP is not in the picture at all. This election is going to decide the fate of Gujarat for the next five years”.
Bharuch district Congress president Parimalsinh Rana said they are focussing on the rural and semi-urban voters. “The party under the leadership of the late Ahmed Patel has carried out welfare work in the tribal areas. The party is making fewer efforts in the urban areas, which are the stronghold of the BJP. We are missing our leader Ahmed Patel, but people in Bharuch still remember his love and affection”.
Marutisinh Atodariya, BJP’s Bharuch district president said the party will not just retain the seats it has but also made inroads into new territory, “As far as I can see, AAP is nowhere in the picture, not only in Bharuch district but across Gujarat…. For the first time after Independence, we are going to make history by winning the Jhagadia assembly constituency”.
The Jhagadia assembly segment has been a stronghold of the tribal leader and founder of the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), Chhotubhai Vasava since 1990. Vasava first won the seat on a ticket of the Janata Dal in 1990 and has retained the seat since then. Vasava founded the BTP ahead of the 2017 assembly election.
With over 3,000 industrial units in and around Bharuch and Ankleshwar, there is a sizable migrant population. The constituency has 2,55,324 voters and falls in the Bharuch Lok Sabha constituency which is represented by BJP MP Mansukhbhai Vasava. Bharuch is going to the polls in the first phase on December 1.