The Congress party, which has been playing second fiddle to the BJP in Gujarat politics for close to two decades now, looks set to improve its tally in south Gujarat region. However, this is mainly on account of increase in number of assembly seats, rather than being a case of BJP suffering reverses.
In 2007 assembly elections, the BJP had won 15 out of 22 seats in Surat, Tapi, Navsari, Valsad and Dangs, while Congress had won seven seats. Following delimitation, the number of seats in these five districts has now gone up to 28, with Surat district alone accounting for 16 seats, the second highest in the state after Ahmedabad, which has 21 seats.
The BJP could win 16 – 17 seats in South Gujarat, while Congress could improve its tally to 11 - 12.
As far as Surat city is concerned, the BJP looks set to maintain its stronghold. The saffron party is expected to win 10 out of the 12 seats in Surat city. The Congress, say political experts, can win the minority-dominated Surat East seat.
The BJP has fielded sitting MLA and minister Ranjit Gilitwala from Surat East, while Congress has fielded Kadir Pirzada. Former Union minister late Kashiram Rana’s son Deepak is contesting on the seat as a GPP nominee.
The other seat the Congress could potentially win in Surat is Varachha Road, from where it has fielded former BJP MLA Dhiru Gajera. He is locked in a direct fight with BJP candidate and former Surat deputy mayor, Kumar Kanani.
“We are hopeful of winning more seats (in Surat), but it would be a real bonus,” says a Surat Congress leader.
Congress nominees seems to be in a good position to win Mandvi and Mahuva seats in Surat district, while the other two – Mangrol and Bardoli – are expected to go the BJP’s way. The opposition party also looks to retain the Vyara and Nizar seats – the two seats of Tapi district.
The BJP had won all four seats in Navsari in 2007, but Congress has a good chance of snatching the reorganised Vansda seat, where prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh campaigned on Sunday, while BJP looks set to retain Jalalpore, Gandevi and Navsari.
Navsari district will see an interesting contest from Gandevi, where minister Mangubhai Patel is engaged in a straight fight with former MLA and Congress nominee Bharti Patel.
As far as Valsad is concerned, BJP had won three seats in 2007, with Congress bagging the remaining two. This time, Congress is in a good position to increase its tally to three by winning Kaprada, Dharampur and Pardi seats, while BJP would retain Valsad and Umargam.