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Kashiram Rana has clear edge over rival in Surat

Union Minister Kashiram Rana seems to have a clear edge over his Congress rival -- Chandrakant Pithawala.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Surat
UPDATED ON APR 19, 2004 02:07 PM IST

The glitter was totally absent in the campaigning in the diamond city and traditional BJP seat, where Union Rural Development Minister Kashiram Rana seems to have a clear edge over his Congress rival -- an affluent businessman but a 'political novice'-- Chandrakant Pithawala.

Rana has the distinction of having won 1999 polls by a high margin in this constituency, once held by former Prime Minister Morarji Desai.

While Pithawala is trying his level best to garner votes mainly from Koli community and the coastal belt, observers say that in absence of a proper network it will be a herculean task for him to give BJP-strongman and a five-time MP, Rana, a tough fight.

Moreover, caste factor has less role to play in this constituency of nearly 24 lakh voters, most of whom are Patels, with a sizeable number engaged in diamond business and loyal to BJP.

Though Rana harps of development plank and does not tire listing his works as an MP and Minister for the region, the voter turn out is his main concern.

"Voter turnout has not been very good in Surat. From 47.14 per cent in 1998 it has reduced to 32.26 in 1999. We are going door to door and urging people not to refrain from voting", Rana told PTI.

Pithawala on the other hand only has the "image" of his father C K Pithawala, a known figure in the city for his generous donations for social work.

Apart from other development works, Rana also banks on the Centre accepting his proposal to modernise the Surat airport, the work order for which was already been given.

Rana, who had first time won this seat for BJP in 1989 by defeating Congress strongman C D Patel, continued to establish his hold so strongly that all candidates that Congress "experimented" with, against him were made to look mediocre, in terms of their electoral prospects.

In 1999 polls, the Union Minister trounced a chartered accountant and "political greenhorn" Rupin Patchigar by a whooping margin of 2,49,197 votes. Patchigar shifted loyalty to the saffron party recently.

In 1998 polls, Rana had won by even larger margin when he defeated Congress's Thakorebhai Naik by 3,04,022 votes.

"The margin this time will be over three lakhs", says the BJP leader confidently.

However, sources close to the Pithawala discount the suggestions that it would be cakewalk for Union Minister.

"Pithawala's clean image and the social works done by him and his father are bound to influence voters in his favour they said.

Moreover, BJP rules in five out of the seven assembly segments, including the largest assembly seat Choryasi comprising Surat Lok Sabha seat.

Surat has also witnessed highest increase among all 26 LS constituencies and has 23,65,416 electors, including 12,94474 males and 10,70,942 females.

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