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Mumbai politicians in Gujarat battle as BJP and Congress send their leaders to the battleground

Both parties have deployed senior party leaders and Gujarati-speaking workers from Mumbai to campaign and convince voters

mumbai Updated: Nov 17, 2017 23:04 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times
GUJARAT POLLS,MUMBAI CONGRESS,MUMBAI BJP
Both the Congress and the BJP have deployed senior leaders and Gujarati-speaking workers from Mumbai to Gujarat for the Assembly elections.(HT File)

With the stage set for a tough fight between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress during the Gujarat Assembly elections slated for next month, both parties have deployed leaders and workers from Mumbai to campaign and convince voters.

The BJP has deployed around 100 sitting Gujarati-speaking MLAs, corporators and workers in Surat and other parts of the state, while the Congress’ Mumbai unit has announced that it will dispatch 200 workers to southern Gujarat.

The BJP Mumbai unit chief Ashish Shelar is camping in Surat, 285 km from Maharashtra’s capital, with workers from the party’s various wings. He is responsible for coordination in Surat’s 12 Assembly constituencies. Gujarati-speaking corporators from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, workers attached with the Uttar Bharatiya Morcha and the minority wing will be stationed in 16 constituencies in Surat and its rural outskirts.

Other Gujarati-speaking leaders from Mumbai, including Mangalprabhat Lodha, Raj Purohit, Yogesh Sagar and senior corporators such as Manoj Kotak are responsible for campaigning in other parts of Gujarat.

“The BJP’s Mumbai team has been asked to use the missed-call initiative, implemented two years ago, to reach out to new voters. We will focus on getting them to go and vote in the first two hours of the day of the election. The team has been asked to establish personal contact with them before the candidates are announced in the next couple of days. We have deployed almost one worker per voter in these constituencies,” said a BJP leader from Mumbai.

He said the Mumbai leaders’ expertise will play a crucial role in the Gujarat polls.

“Mumbai and Gujarat share a business relationship, as well as an emotional one. Mumbai’s business communities have relatives who live in Gujarat. Decades ago, both states were one . This helps leaders from Mumbai and Maharashtra appeal to voters. Our late leader Pramodji Mahajan had introduced a system of exchange of inter-state workers in elections. This helped create Maharashtra leaders who had expertise in elections,” said BJP MLA Raj Purohit.

Congress’s Mumbai unit, led by Sanjay Nirupam, said it would send 200 workers to tap into the voter base in Gujarat. “Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is getting increasing support for the elections. According to a survey, the gap between voters supporting the BJP and us has reduced from 30% to 6%. Our workers will help convert the support to votes. We will be camped in these constituencies for the next three weeks,” Nirupam said.

The Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will be play smaller roles. The NCP, which had two MLAs in the dissolved Assembly, is yet to decide whether to contest in alliance with the Congress or to join forces with Shankarsinh Vaghela. The Shiv Sena is likely to contest 50 candidates, especially in constituencies with Marathi-speaking voters. “Though we are contesting the Assembly elections after a gap of 15 years, we have a fair chance of winning seats. Party MPs, MLAs, corporators from Maharashtra will actively participate in campaigning for candidates in Gujarat,” party spokesperson Hemraj Shah said.

First Published: Nov 17, 2017 14:29 IST