A traditional Bharatiya Janata Party bastion — Ahmedabad East Lok Sabha constituency — is witnessing a battle involving an actor, a former mayor and a businessman-turned-activist.
BJP’s Paresh Rawal, contesting the election to see Narendra Modi as prime minister, is asking for votes on national security and development. Congress’s Himmatsinh Patel is seeking votes as a local belonging to the grassroots who knows local issues inside out. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Dinesh Waghela wants to provide basic amenities like water, sanitation and education to the most deprived citizens of the constituency.
A majority of the constituency falls under urban areas, barring villages under Dehgam and Gandhinagar South assembly segments. The major issues in the urban areas of Bapunagar, Nikol, Vatva, Thakkarbapanagar and Naroda assembly segments are inadequate water supply, unauthorised construction, poor drainage, lack of quality educational institutes and waterlogging in monsoon.
The Congress has often accused the ruling BJP in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation of being biased towards the western part of the city and not allocating enough funds for development of the eastern part.
The BJP has denied ticket to seven-time MP Harin Pathak in favour of Rawal. Though Pathak talked like a rebel initially, he fell in line and started campaigning for LK Advani, the BJP candidate from Gandhinagar, later. However, BJP workers and Pathak loyalists seem to be a disgruntled lot. It is also believed that the BJP’s decision to field Rawal has boosted the confidence of the Congress candidate.
As BJP and AAP candidates do not belong to Ahmedabad or Gujarat, Patel claimed to have a clear edge over his rivals. “I am a local candidate, who has served the city as corporator for four terms as well as mayor of Ahmedabad and leader of opposition in the AMC. So, I know the problems as well as the remedies.”
Dinesh Waghela, on the other hand, has been talking about people’s basic rights. “Though BJP’s former MP for seven times, Pathakji, was a gentleman and easily approachable, what work has he done? Girls still do not have separate toilets in school. People do not get pure and enough drinking water. And, you call this development?”
Incidentally, the BJP candidate is not focusing on local issues, but soliciting votes in the name of Modi. “We are asking people to vote for Narendra Modi as he is the best candidate to become prime minister. The country needs such a visionary prime minister at this juncture,” said Babu Zadaphia, the BJP in-charge of this constituency.
It seems the BJP has an upper hand not because of the candidate’s personal charisma but because of its traditional vote-bank. Before delimitation, a majority of the areas came under Ahmedabad constituency. Pathak defeated Congress’s Dipak Babaria by over 86,000 votes in 2009 and Rajkumar Gupta by over 77,000 votes in 2004.
In the 2012 assembly election, the BJP won Naroda, Nikol, Thakkarbapanagar, Bapunagar, Vatva and Gandhinagar assembly segments or constituencies while Dehgam went to the Congress.
Both Congress and BJP are using film stars for campaigning. On Sunday, Amisha Patel held a road show for the Congress and Suniel Shetty for the BJP.