The ruling BJP may face headwinds in the form of resentment over incomplete projects, demonetisation and GST hassles in its bid to repeat its sterling performance in the previous Assembly polls in Gujarat’s Saurashtra region. The Saurashtra region, which goes to polls on December 9, sends 48 lawmakers to the 182-member Gujarat Assembly. The BJP had won 32 seats from the region in the 2012 state polls. Opposition parties have been accusing the government of failing to complete various development works, especially canal networks and irrigation projects. Asked about this, BJP’s Saurashtra region spokesperson Raju Dhruv agreed partially, but claimed that many of these projects were at different stages of completion and therefore, the party needed another strong mandate to complete them.
Dhruv sits in his newly set-up Rajkot office every day, holds meetings with party workers, issues statements and submits reports, mostly based on the feedback received from the party cadre on the battleground, to senior leaders. Saurashtra, the largest region of Gujarat, comprises 11 districts. The BJP government had faced an outburst of Dalit anger last year when some members of the community were assaulted by cow vigilantes at Una in Somnath Gir district and a video of the incident went viral, making national headlines. Commenting on it, Dhruv said, “We never supported the (Una) incident and always denied any links to it. We detest the incident. I do not think it will have any impact on the electoral outcome.”
The fallout of demonetisation and the teething troubles of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) could be another worry for the BJP, which has been in power in the western state for over two decades. Rameshwar Patel, a ceramic tile trader in Rajkot, said the note ban went against the saffron party’s plank of development-centric governance. “The demonetisation and the GST took away my business for almost a year. Not just I lost business, several labourers who used to work for me went back to Uttar Pradesh. Now my business is slowly improving, but I do not have the labour force to expand my business,” he said. On the incomplete development projects, Kusumben Bhat, a resident of Padadhari village near Rajkot, said, “The BJP has been in power for so many years. The last three years could have been very good as our (former) chief minister Narendra Modi went on to become the prime minister.”
“I do not believe in the BJP’s promises. Who had stopped Modi or the party from completing these infrastructure projects?” she said.
Gujarat Congress secretary Mahesh Rajput said the BJP is struggling to remain in power. “It misused power to keep (Patidar quota agitation leader) Hardik Patel behind bars and is spreading several lies through the social media,” he alleged. Incomplete projects are the perfect example of the BJP doing everything, except development, said Rajput, who is also the party’s Rajkot unit chief. “The rural areas of Saurashtra are still facing a water shortage and the government has done little to solve the problem,” he said.
Of the 48 Assembly seats in Saurashtra, the Congress had won 13 in the 2012 polls, the Gujarat Parivartan Party had won two and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) one. The 182-member Gujarat Assembly will go to polls in two phases — on December 9 and 14. The counting of votes will be taken up on December 18.