Gujarat polls: Vaghela is not being missed in his constituency of Kapadvanj
The 2012 Assembly polls in Gujarat saw former BJP Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel playing his final innings as a Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) candidate from Visavadar constituency. He signed off in style by first winning the seat and then merging the GPP into the BJP before bidding adieu to electoral politics.
The general perception in Gujarat is that 2017 will see another political heavyweight and former Chief Minister Shankersinh Vaghela go into oblivion.
Whether Vaghela proves his detractors wrong remains to be seen in the days to come, but for now even his constituency of Kapadvanj seems to have forgotten him.
There has been no talk of Vaghela during the campaign on this seat in Kheda district. To cap it, his new front, the Jan Vikalp Morcha, that had entered the Gujarat electoral fray in alliance with All India Hindustan Congress Party has not fielded any candidate on this seat that has been represented by Vaghela on various occasions both as a MP as well as MLA.
“Isn't it an irony that Vaghela who started his political innings in 1997 as a Janata Party candidate from the erstwhile Kapadvanj parliamentary seat is going out as the MLA from the same seat after leaving the Congress?” pointed out Suresh Parekh, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secretary for this Assembly constituency.
Vaghela's stint with the BJP, the Rashtriya Janata Party and the Congress over the last four decades is well known.
The Congressmen in the constituency are also very happy with Vaghela's departure. Party leader Juvansinh Parmar told this correspondent – “He was too big a leader. His word was final and nobody else could differ with him. Now it is the candidate of our choice who is contesting. He never maintained a connect with the constituency despite being one of the tallest leaders of the party in the last almost two decades.”
This time around the Congress has fielded Kalubhai Dabhi against Kanubhai Dabhi of the BJP. The Congress claims to be having an upper hand in the contest, thanks to the BJP's Bimal Shah who is contesting as an independent. Even the BJP cadres are of the opinion that Shah should have been the official candidate of the party as he has a far better local connect than any other candidate from any of the parties.
“But the high concentration of Rajput and Other Backward Castes (OBC) votes led the party leadership to think otherwise. The BJP leadership has also started functioning like the Congress which is very sad,” said a BJP worker.
The BJP cadres across the district are upset with the party leadership. Besides the party ignoring Shah in Kapadvanj, they are annoyed at the candidature of Ramsinh Parmar on Thasra seat and Bharatsinh Parmar on Mahuda seat.
Both these leaders jumped fence from the Congress a few months ago and have got the ticket while those within the BJP ranks aspiring to contest as party candidates have been ignored.
In Kapadvanj seat Rajput voters along with the OBCs account for almost 65% of the 2,72,000 voters. In terms of numbers Thakores have around 15,000 voters, Dabhi community has 23,000 and Parmars have 47,700 voters. They are followed by around 38,000 Muslims, 24,000 Patels and 20,000 Dalits.
This is a predominantly rural seat where farmers' issues are galore. These issues range from the scarcity of water in the eastern part of the constituency to menace of wild boars and Nilgai. In addition to these is the issue of the farmers not getting remunerative prices for their produce. The area produces wheat, maize, bajra, tobacco, cotton and vegetables.
“Can the BJP government that has been giving the narrative of development explain why farmers are being compelled to sell potatoes for Rs 40 per 50 kg? Can the BJP explain why the cotton farmers are in distress in the light of the tall claims Modi had made ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha polls terming the produce as 'white gold'? Can the BJP explain why the groundnut farmers have not got the Rs 100 bonus announced over every 20 kg of their produce? The farmers are angry and this is going to reflect in the polling. They have done nothing to tackle the menace of Nilgai and boars,” said Rajendra Sinh Rathore, a farmer from Antoli village.
Kheda district has traditionally been a Congress stronghold. A large number of people in Kapadvanj feel that they have been punished by the BJP for supporting the Congress by denying them essentials like water. They say that although the Narmada canal flows pretty close by, the farmers in this constituency have not been given water for irrigation from the canal.
“Around six months back, a farmers' delegation had gone to meet deputy chief minister Nitin Patel on this issue. He told us bluntly 'Kamal khilana padega' (You will have to ensure a BJP victory by polling lotus symbol). I told him bluntly that lotus grows where there is mud and marsh that comes with water,” said Mangal Solanki, a resident of an adjoining village.
The area also lacks in industrialisation because of which there is joblessness. The minorities here complain of being discriminated against by the BJP.
“They never consider minority candidates for government jobs despite their fulfilling the educational requirements. They have just been inducting their own cadre in government jobs. Even if we vote for them, they will never give us anything,” said Imran Pathan who does odd jobs on the computer like filing forms, writing applications etc.
An interesting phenomenon that this reporter came across here was a very large number of people questioning the credibility of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
“We still cannot accept that the Congress could not win a single seat in the last Lok Sabha polls in entire Gujarat. We just hope that the assembly polls are held in a fair manner,” said a local resident.
There are very few buyers of the BJP narrative on development. With its own cadres annoyed with the party having ignored its main leader Bimal Shah, the BJP is up against heavy odds here this time.