Gujarat elections 2022: With its rich cultural heritage, the Saurashtra-Kutch region is as politically significant to Gujarat as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are to national politics. The coastal region, which is witnessing a flurry of political activities, is believed to hold the key to formation of a new government in Gandhinagar. No wonder then that all roads in Gujarat are currently leading to this politically crucial region, with top leaders cutting across party lines making a beeline to this significant region which forms two-third of the state geographically.
BJP looks to regain lost ground
It is not a coincidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his campaign for Gujarat with the Saurashtra-Kutch region. With experts pointing out that a winning performance by the BJP in Gujarat will be key to Modi’s chances in the 2024 elections, the three-way contest in the state has morphed into an unprecedented battle of prestige.
In the 2017 assembly elections in Gujarat, the Congress bagged 30 seats while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) managed to win only 19, down from 30 of the 48 seats it had bagged in the 2012 assembly elections in the region.
Criss-crossing through Gujarat’s Saurashtra region, PM Modi said the BJP government has carried out several developmental works to strengthen Gujarat while Congress does not have the capacity to do that. “The Opposition party can never do anything good for you,” the PM said.
“Aa Gujarat main banavyu chhe (I have made this Gujarat),” PM Modi said addressing one of his rallies recently, an apparent bid to assert his “son-of-the-soil” pitch before the electorate. The BJP is banking on this region to improve its tally from the previous elections and Modi knows well that his connection with the state remains his best bet.
AAP’s broom ‘vroom’
With nothing to lose, the debutante Aam Aadmi Party is looking to unsettle the political equations in the state. And Arvind Kejriwal’s five-day campaign stint in the state also focussed on making a strong pitch for the party in the Saurashtra-Kutch region, holding over 11 roadshows.
“No party comes and talks to you about schools, no party talks to you about hospitals, no party talks to you about electricity, employment… Ours is the only party which talks about employment, electricity and your families,” he said.
Isudan Gadhvi, who is chief ministerial face for AAP, also hails from the Saurashtra region. The party has fielded him from Jamkhambhaliya taluka in Devbhumi Dwarka district. AAP has pinned its hopes on Gadhvi to do well in the Ahir-dominated region. In the Surat Municipal Corporation elections held last time, AAP performed well marking its presence among the influential Patidar community.
Congress: A shadow of its 2017’s grandiose
With the AAP nipping at its heels, the battle definitely looks tough for the Congress which appears to be struggling to find the tailwind of its 2017 performance in the region when the high-voltage Patidar agitation and farmers’ disenchantment with BJP propelled it to an impressive score.
With the farmers’ angst and the Patidar stir now a non-factor, the Congress’ conundrum has only intensified. Patidar face Hardik Patel’s switch from the Congress to BJP has also dented the grand old party in Saurashtra.
The BJP, as poll experts opine, would prefer that the Congress does better than the AAP so as to keep the new player at bay. Some Congress candidates are said to be confident to put up a good performance and believe that their goodwill with voters would help them sail through.
Giving his 3,570 km cross-country footmarch a short break, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed two election rallies in Saurashtra region on Monday. “No action has been taken against the real culprits behind the last month’s collapse of a suspension bridge in Gujarat’s Morbi town, where 135 people were killed, because they share a good relationship with the BJP,” he said. It is, however, still not clear whether the top leader has kept away from campaigning this poll season as a matter of personal choice or a well-thought strategy.