Gujarat polls: Despite complaints, Vadodara supports Modi this time as well
Vadodara has many reasons to complain but the ten Assembly constituencies in this district of central Gujarat that go to the polls in the second phase of the Gujarat elections are still expected to largely rally behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi won the Vadodara Lok Sabha constituency with a margin of more than 5.7 lakh votes in the 2014 parliamentary polls. But he had abandoned the seat preferring to retain the politically more lucrative Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Voters in all the Assembly segments in Vadodara had voted overwhelmingly in favour of Modi.
When Modi announced that he would give up Vadodara for Varanasi, he promised to shower this area with largesse and would never let them feel the difference of him not being their MP.
“Now the people are talking about those promises. They compare Vadodara with Ahmedabad and Surat on the development front and feel left out in the race. They complain of the region not having seen any worthwhile industrial development. They point out how Kachchh, Saurashtra and South Gujarat have emerged as major investment destinations in the Vibrant Gujarat Investor Summits while Vadodara continues to make do with the old public sector units like the Gujarat Refinery and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation unit. There is a wide belief that Vadodara's Padra area had all the advantages that Sanand has to become an automobile industry hub, but it was overlooked,” points out a political analyst.
He further pointed that the dream of the city having an international airport also hangs in limbo because of lack of 'futuristic planning' and it ishaving to do with four flights each to Delhi and Mumbai each daily.
Vadodara was also in the race along with Rajkot for getting an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) but the locals complain that it has been hijacked by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani who comes from the latter.
Vadodara district has ten assembly segments and during the 2012 polls all these seats were won by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). These seats are equally divided into the urban and rural constituencies. The urban constituencies are Vadodara City, Sayajigunj, Raopura, Manjalpur and Akota. The rural ones include Dabhoi, Savli, Waghodia, Padra and Karjan.
In rural constituencies, there is a simmering discontent. The farmers are upset at not getting enough water for irrigation. They are also angry over not getting good returns for their yield, particularly the vegetables. The villages in Padra constituencies are known for their vegetable produce.
“Life is getting tougher by the day. I recently bought an auto rickshaw on loan and had to pay Rs 36,000 as Goods and Service Tax (GST). I just wonder what I am going to earn and how I am going to pay the installments,” said Usman Gani, a resident of Manjalpur locality as he dropped this reporter to a local destination.
Locals inform that the small scale industrial units too have been facing a tough time. “Handling demonetisation and GST impact back to back is too much of a drain on us,” said Hiteshbhai who manufactures cupboards.
But despite all these complaints, the BJP is expected to still do well in this district. “Vadodara has supported the BJP right from the 1990s. It has been a traditional bastion of the saffron party ever since it started growing in Gujarat. The party candidates here have been winning with very handsome margins. Urban Vadodara is a typical middle class city that is not bothered with what is happening in other parts of the state. The scene in rural areas is no different. The murmurs of Dalit agitation after the Una public flogging or the Patidar agitation for reservation in jobs and educational institutions did not get much attention here,” pointed out a political observer.
The BJP’s growth also brought an increase in communal polarisation to Vadodara. The old city areas have remained restive over the years. Several parts of the district saw the communal flare up during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom after the Godhra train burning incident. Among the most heinous incidents reported from this area was the Best Bakery episode where 14 persons - 11 Muslims and three Hindu workers were burnt to death.
“The communal narrative continues. The message given out time and again is that if the Congress comes to power, Muslims will get emboldened,” pointed the observer.
The BJP candidate from Dabhoi constituency Shailesh Mehta alias Sotta has been making headlines with his communal diatribe during the campaign. He has been saying that he does not want to Dabhoi to turn into Dubai. He has been reportedly calling for reduction in the population of skull caps and beards (Muslims) and has been saying that when elected he would not give even a penny to Madrassas.
“Nothing will come of the complaint against him. This is what things have come down to in this country where you can openly go around threatening the minorities,” said a Muslim hotelier in the city.
“Sotta is facing a stiff challenge from Siddharth Patel of the Congress and has been making these statements to whip up communal passions to polarize the electorate,” said a local media person. Dabhoi along with Padra are being seen as the seats where the Congress is well placed. Dabhoi has a significant Patidar population and its candidate is the son of former CM Chimanbhai Patel
In Padra, Jaspalsinh Thakor of the Congress is pitted against sitting BJP MLA Dinesh Patel who is also the chairman of Baroda Dairy.
The Congress workers in Waghodia are annoyed over the party having 'gifted' the seat to the BJP by supporting the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) candidate Pravin Vora. This is a seat where the BJP has once again fielded Madhu Srivastava despite a lot of opposition to his candidature. There is also a BJP rebel Dharmendrasinh Vaghela contesting here as an independent. All the three candidates are known for their muscle power.
In Sayajigunj seat in the heart of Vadodara, there is resentment against sitting MLA Jitendra Sukhadia. There were even rumours that he won’t get a ticket this time. He is facing a tough fight from Congress candidate Narendra Rawat.
“Another reason why the people will still back the BJP on majority of the seats here is that there is no chief ministerial face of the Congress and they see the Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi as no match to Modi. Despite all the shortfalls, they still see a leader in Modi,” said a local resident returning from Modi's rally in Navlakhi grounds.