Gujarat Elections: Bhavnagar May be Tricky for BJP Due to Anti-Incumbency
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PTI
"This time, the election results in Bhavnagar will be shocking," Bharat Singh from the Mahua region of Bhavnagar told NewsClick. Singh, the President of Methla Bandhara Vikas Samiti.
In the last election, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won six out of seven seats in this district. Singh believes that situation may reverse as BJP is facing a tough fight in Bhavnagar.
As the polling date in Gujarat draws closer, the BJP, the main opposition Congress and the new contender for power, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have thrown full force into their election campaigns. The Bhavnagar election battle holds significance for Gujarat as the district is considered a BJP stronghold. In the last election, it had won six of the seven Assembly seats from here, while one seat went to the Congress.
Bhavnagar has a very important place in the history of India. After Independence, more than 562 princely states in India were to be included in the Indian Union. Initially, many princely states refused to join India, and many princely states imposed conditions in lieu of a merger. However, of all the princely states, Bhavnagar was the first state to join India.
Political observers believe that with the entry of AAP into the fray, the Gujarat election battle has turned into a 'triangular contest.' Although this is the first Assembly election for AAP in Gujarat, party leader Arvind Kejriwal and other AAP leaders are doing lots of hard work to gain politically in the state.
Polling in Bhavnagar will be held on December 1. The Election Commission is likely to set up around 1,868 polling stations for more than 18 lakh voters in the district.
The seven Assembly seats include Mahua, Talaja, Gariadhar, Palitana, Bhavnagar Rural, Bhavnagar East, and Bhavnagar West.
Credit: Chandan Gorana
Speaking to NewsClick over the phone, Singh said: "People in Bhavnagar are disappointed with the false promises made by BJP leaders. There is a Bagad river between Mahua and Talaja of Bhavnagar on which a dam was to be built. The BJP government made promises but never provided financial help to build the dam. As a result, 2,000 people under the leadership of Methala Bandhara Vikas Samiti built the dam, which has a capacity of 750 FDMC of water, which is more than the government's proposed capacity of 600 FDMC."
"In 2007, when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister, he promised the people of Mahua and Talaja that if you vote for me, I will allocate Rs 35 crore for the construction of the dam. But after winning the election again, this issue was put in cold storage. Then in 2015, Anandiben Patel (the then chief minister) said she would make a provision of Rs 55 crore for the Bagad Dam. But nothing happened," he further said.
A campaign was carried out across 40 villages of Mahua and Talaja to construct the dam in 2018.
"In March 2018, the Methla Bandhara Vikas Samiti warned the government that if it failed to build the dam, the public would build it at their own expense. Alarmed by this, in March itself, the new Chief Minister (Vijay) Rupani sent a fax to the committee via its related department and promised to allocate Rs 86 crore. But again, no money came for the dam's construction," Singh said.
Disappointed from all sides, finally, the people of Mahua and Talaja together started the construction work on April 6, 2018, in which more than 2,000 villagers participated, and a total of Rs 55 lakh was spent on the project.
"From Narendrabhai Modi to Rupani, every Chief Minister promised allocation of crores but did not give a single paisa while the villagers completed the dam construction in just three months. From this, you can guess what kind of hollow announcements BJP leaders make," Singh said.
AAP is contesting almost all the seats in the state, and it is believed that it will primarily cut into the vote of the Congress party, which will benefit BJP. But is this the reality?
NewsClick spoke to Vithalbhai Dugheri of Bhavnagar to understand the situation.
"This time also, there is anger among the people against BJP because its government has not been able to fulfill even its minimum promises. The situation can change if the voters do not get trapped in Hindu-Muslim politics," he said over the phone.
As per Dugheri, education, unemployment, price rise, corruption, crop loss, and drug addiction are major issues.
Damodar Bhai from Ahmedabad (name changed), an NGO activist working on education in the state, told NewsClick that, "education, unemployment, and price rise are major issues in the state, and the general public is not happy with the BJP government. Due to the non-construction of dams in many districts, farmers face many problems, and villagers are building small dams for themselves."
Firdosh Bhai of Wadgam believes that AAP will harm Congress less and it will dent the votes of BJP as AAP is a city-based party and BJP has a huge support base in cities. Apart from this, the eight promises given by Congress to the voters of Gujarat can work in the party's favour.
The eight promises include providing gas cylinders for Rs 500, giving free domestic electricity for up to 300 units, implementing the old pension scheme, etc. Congress has also included specific promises for girl education, youth employment, the healthcare sector, etc.
The AAP has also promised free electricity, unemployment allowance, employment, and education.
As the election fever intensifies in Gujarat, with BJP putting all its might to win the elections, it remains to be seen whether resentment against the ruling party will turn into votes for AAP or Congress.
The writer is an independent journalist based in Delhi.
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