South Gujarat remains a BJP fortress despite some discontent and a Patidar wave in certain pockets

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on January 27, 2018 Published on December 04, 2017

On Sunday, all roads led to South Gujarat where, on one hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was addressing a gathering of Muslims, tribals and farmers, and, on the other, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani was taking out a roadshow in Surat to reach out to the traders community.

Patidar reservation hero Hardik Patel was taking out a roadshow as well, across six constituencies in Surat.

However, for the BJP, South Gujarat has been a stronghold, with its support base growing steadily over the elections since 2002. Its presence in the seven districts of the region increased from 15 seats to 18 out of 29 from 2002 to 2007. In 2012, after the delimitation of constituencies, its position was further strengthened to 28 out of 35 seats.

“This shows the overall development in the region irrespective of the caste or section of the society. Surat has been predominantly a BJP stronghold. The CM’s roadshow was planned overnight and you could see the crowd. Most importantly, the development done in the past 20 years speaks for itself,” said Harsh Sanghvi, MLA from Majura.

Common man’s ire

However, insiders reveal that issues such as demonetisation, inflation and unemployment have irked the common man, while the trader community, especially from the textile and chemical sector, are upset over GST implementation.

“There could be some impact in the Patidar dominated seats in Surat and some non-urban seats, where there was the vote margin was less against the Congress. But that impact wouldn’t be more than 5-8 per cent of the total seats in South Gujarat,” said a Surat BJP functionary.

The highly industrialised region has mega industrial clusters that employ a large number of migrant workers, along with local labour.

“The migrants still prefer Narendra Modi’s model of development. They have been good influencers on the local community,” said an office bearer of the Ankleshwar Industries Association.

“After removal of the moratorium on expansions due to high levels of pollution in Ankleshwar and Vapi region, there is a positive sentiment for the ruling party,” he added. Under the UPA regime about seven years ago, the Environment Ministry had imposed a moratorium on expansion and new investments at industrial units in Ankleshwar, Panoli and Vapi in South Gujarat. Last year, the Ministry lifted the moratorium.

According to a resident of Surat and member of an action group for Surat airport, EH Pathan, an expanded airport in the city with12 daily flights connecting cities such as Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kolkata and Hyderabad besides Mumbai and Delhi is a big plus not just for Surat but for the entire region.

Surat airport

“There is no big working airport in the entire South Gujarat region. In the last one year, connectivity has greatly improved. People from Ankleshwar, Bharuch can now take a flight to Hyderabad from Surat,” he added.

The region has high proportion of urban population with major urban centres such as Surat, Bharuch, Ankleshwar, Vapi, Navsari and Valsad forming the BJP’s support base in the urban pockets.

The region has 14 reserved tribal seats, while one seat is reserved for scheduled castes. The BJP has fielded eight OBC candidates, seven Patidars and five from the general category. The Congress has given ticket to 11 OBCs, two Muslims, five Patidars, two from the general category and 12 tribals.

Published on December 04, 2017
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