Gujarat elections 2012: In BJP sweep of industrial belt, 2 car zones prove an exception
The development plank Chief Minister Narendra Modi was banking on appears to have worked for the BJP in most seats in the industrial belt, but losses in Sanand and Viramgam — home to Tata Nano and Maruti Suzuki car projects — proved surprising exceptions to the trend.
The BJP has largely gained in Assembly constituencies falling under industrial zones that saw high-profile investments during the last one decade. Some of these zones fall under Kutch, Jamnagar, Ahmedabad, Bharuch, Surat, Bhavnagar, Patan and Surendranagar districts.
An Assocham study published in April 2011 said that 70 per cent of the 1,445 live investment projects (worth Rs 13.4 lakh crore) in Gujarat were concentrated in the six districts of Kutch, Jamnagar, Ahmedabad, Bharuch, Surat and Bhavnagar, and most of the constituencies in these districts went to the BJP. “In these six districts, people have definitely felt a growth in their assets. The voters in these regions are seeing development happening and have equated the rise in their assets to the growth of the region,” said Bhagyesh Soneji, chairperson (Gujarat Council) of Assocham.
However, the BJP’s loss in Sanand (a new constituency created after delimitation), marketed as the country’s emerging automobile hub, has surprised many. “It is very surprising that the BJP has lost in this constituency. The loss gives the BJP reason enough to introspect if the fruits of development are reaching the people,” said Soneji about the region which has been the epicentre of development activities since Tata decided to shift its Nano plant to Gujarat in 2008.
“There is no development as claimed by Modi. He fooled people. In reality, people are selling their land and getting poorer,” said Pankaj Vaghela, a Youth Congress leader from Sanand where international car manufacturers like Ford and Peugeot are in the process of setting up manufacturing hubs. Even a 10-time increase in land prices at Sanand, post-Nano, could not turn the electorate in favour of the BJP, where the party’s candidate Kamabhai Rathod lost to Congress rival Karamsibhai Patel by a little over 4,100 votes.
At Viramgam, which will house the proposed Rs 4,000 crore Maruti Suzuki manufacturing plant (in Hansalpur village of Mandal taluka) and a proposed 900 sq km Special Investment Region, the BJP’s Pragji Patel lost to the Congress’s Tejashree Patel by 16,900 votes.
Beyond these two seats, experts feel, it is the development agenda of Modi that has worked. In Halol, which has seen big-ticket investments like the Rs 1,100 crore, two-wheeler manufacturing plant of Hero Motocorp, BJP candidate and Minister of State for Roads and Buildings Jayadrathsinhji Parmar won by 30,000 votes.
Industrialisation and investments have caused an escalation in land prices in this region, which, in turn, has led to an appreciation in the wealth of land-holders, especially farmers.
Experts say that in districts such as Patan and Surendranagar, investments in solar power projects have helped farmers realise the value of their respective land-holdings.
“The poll result is a big thumbs-up for the state government’s development agenda. Be it Sanand, Halol, Dahej, Vapi, Gandhidham, Vadodara, a lot of investments have fructified in the last five years. Even by rough estimates, the land prices in these industrial zones have more than doubled,” said Nirav Kothary, head of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a global real-estate consultant.