In Kutch, a BJP bastion that the saffron party has been winning consistently since 1991, the fight is not just between the BJP and the Congress. It is between a lawyer and a doctor, a former Youth Congress leader, an experienced politician and a son-of-the-soil pitted against an outsider.
For the BJP, the war cry is all about a son-of-the-soil (Vinod Chavda) being more proficient in addressing the problems of Kutch than an outsider (Congress candidate Dinesh Parmar is originally from Jamnagar).
Its confidence can also be gauged from the fact that the BJP, which does not find support among Muslims, addressed a meeting at Nani Chirai, a Muslim-dominated village in Bhachau. At a community centre, where around 50 people, including 15 Muslims, had gathered, leaders talked about how Muslims have also benefited from Gujarat’s development.
“This year alone, Rs60 lakh worth of Maava were sold per day because of people coming to Rannotsav. The kite festival, too, has benefited Muslims, involved in making kites. The Gujarat model of development is for everyone,” said Chavda.
“We may be Hindus and Muslims, but have a shared Gujarati heritage. Let us forget about assembly elections. For the Lok Sabha, let us vote for the benefit of Gujarat together,” said Ramesh Maheshwari, the BJP MLA of Gandhidham. “BJP is for everyone’s vikas (development). Show us your support in such a manner that when ballot boxes are opened, there is no doubt whom you support,” he added. A host of Muslim elders garlanded Chavda, whose meeting gets over in 20 minutes.
The villagers, though, are not fooled by the BJP visit. “Hasim Vira, a Congress leader, recently joined BJP with his supporters. It is he who has convinced them to come here. Otherwise, the BJP never dares to ask for vote here. They have never come before,” said Abdul Noormohammed Koiya, a resident of Nani Chirai and working in Mundra.
He says gutter facilities are pathetic, although problems of water and electricity have been solved. The BJP also talks about the party’s efforts to bring the Narmada water to Kutch. “Work on the canal at Chobari has been stopped due to lack of permission from the Centre. Otherwise, Narmada water has reached all of Kutch. We have also appointed page pracharaks with each given the responsibility of 20 houses to ensure that we have good visibility and that people come out to vote,” said Vikas Rajgor, a local BJP leader.
Babubhai, a resident of Gokulgam ni Nani Chirai, said it is only after the BJP came to power that Kutch saw development. “Industries came here and with them came water and electricity. Even during Congress rule, we had ministers and MPs from here. But they did precious little. At least, these people have done something for us. Moreover, the Congress candidate is an outsider. What does he know about our problems?” he asked.