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Lok Sabha elections: BJP-Congress are neck and neck in central Gujarat

Tuesday, 29 April 2014 - 7:24pm IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: dna

Congress expected to bag tribal votes; caste engineering is the clincher

The six seats in Central Gujarat region are a mixed bag in terms of demography of electorate — the mix of urban and rural electorate and the strongholds of BJP and Congress. Three of these seats are dominated by tribal voters.

The urban centre of Vadodara in the heart of Central Gujarat is the key seat where BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is contesting. And, it is a no brainer that he will win the seat by a handsome margin.

All the efforts right now are in the direction of making his margin swell to a record high of seven lakh votes. MLAs of all the seven assembly segments are with the BJP right now. Five of these seats are urban constituencies of Vadodara city. Vadodara has voted for the BJP for the last 25 consecutive years, which makes it an extremely safe seat for Modi.

Kheda also appears to be favouring the BJP. The saffron party’s candidate, Devusinh Chauhan, is enthusiastically working hard, in stark contrast to Congress’s Dinsha Patel, who is seeking to defend his seat.

The elections are fought here on three pitches. First is to vote for Modi, rather than Chauhan or BJP and make him the PM. While people seem to be parroting it, they are not convinced enough to vote on this agenda.

Second is the issues – issues of unemployment, getting minimum support price for their crop etc. Chauhan is addressing these issues in his outreach. Third is the caste factor. Though Kheda is traditionally a Congress bastion, it has fielded a Leuva Patel candidate for two decades now.

The Kshatriya and OBC communities — which make up 53% of the electorate — are incensed with the Congress for not fielding a candidate of their choice. Chauhan, a Kshatriya, is riding on this dissent while AAP candidate Labhubhai Patel is an insignificant player here.

In Anand — the fountainhead of the dairy industry in Gujarat — is an interesting pitch where incumbent Congress MP Bharatsinh Solanki is seeking re-election for third consecutive term against BJP’s Dilip Patel. The prosperous region has a bulk of NRIs who have flushed the area with facilities. Solanki sits pretty on well-engineered caste balance of Kshatriya, Muslim and Dalit votes. Congress appears poised to retain this seat for now.  The tribal reserved seat of Dahod hosts the feisty Congress MP Dr Prabha Taviad. At the outset one gets an impression the Congress is leading, but BJP candidate Jaswantsinh Bhabhor should not be undermined for his assertive sail on brand Modi.

Tribals are loyal Congress electorate, but the BJP has systematically tried to woo them over the last five years. Rahul Gandhi addressed a public rally on Saturday and Modi on Monday. Taviad, who is a sitting MP, has a personal connect with voters that works to her advantage. Besides tribals, the other major community here is Muslims — 12%. The AAP candidate is a strong factor here who contested on a CPI ticket in 2009 and cornered 43,000 votes.  The saffron party appears to have an edge in Panchmahals. Sitting MP Prabhatsinh Chauhan may retain the seat, as the BJP has performed well in Assembly polls in 2012. Besides Congress’s Ramsinh Parmar is an outsider from Anand and had lost steam midway when he was getting a lukewarm response.

Congress seems to be ahead in the battle of Rathwas in the tribal seat of Chhota Udepur. The seat is a typical swing seat. Naran Rathwa is expected to make the most of loyal tribal vote for Congress. Issues in awarding land to tribals under the Center’s Forest Rights Act have worked against the BJP.

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