Gujarat polls: Cong counts on localised campaign, ‘disappointment’ with state govt amid AAP factor

PTI, Nov 28, 2022, 4:46 PM IST

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Dhoraji/Tankara (Gujarat): Sitting among party workers and supporters at his office, Lalit Vasoya, Congress MLA from Dhoraji, sounds unconcerned about the BJP’s star-studded campaign compared to his party’s low-key canvassing and expresses confidence of another win on the back of his constituency outreach and people’s “anger” with the state government.

Star campaigners are a “waste” of time and the mainstream media is often “pro-BJP”, Vasoya shrugs off queries about his party’s visibly subdued campaign and says he has instead relied on visiting nearly all the 80 villages and three municipalities of his constituency besides using social media to reach out to his voters.

Come December 8, and the Congress will again do well in Saurashtra region, he says.

In Tankara, another constituency in the region won by the Congress last time, party workers say their MLA Lalit Kagathara is the biggest “star” in the constituency due to his work and accessibility to constituents.

Party supporters Anil Bavaliya and Sikandar say the price of edible oil has more than doubled in recent years and a cooking gas cylinder is costing over Rs 1,100 and add that these are the real issues for people who will again vote for the Congress.

However, there is an acknowledgment about the presence of Aam Aadmi Party which has been able to create a buzz with its high-decibel campaign while a section of voters believe that the Congress has been unable to mount a strong enough challenge against the BJP and Arvind Kejriwal’s party deserves a look-in.

In Tankara, BJP’s candidate Durlabhji Dethariya, AAP’s Sanjay Bhatasna and the Congress nominee are all from the Patidar community. Which way the AAP’s vote will impact the poll outcome is anybody’s guess but there is a view that across the region it may impact the Congress more than the ruling party which has a committed vote base underpinned by its ideological vigour.

Riding on the Patidars’ agitation against the BJP, the Congress had won 28 out of 48 seats in the region in 2017. The ruling party has since worked to bolster its strength by wooing over a number of local heavyweights from the Congress.

That the Patidar agitation has fizzled out with many of its key figures, including Hardik Patel, now in the BJP has given the party hope that it can leave its rival far behind in the largely rural region where its poor show had given it a scare last time.

Local Congress leaders believe, a view shared by the BJP as well, that their party remains the foremost challenger to the incumbent and will also be helped by farmers’ “woes” under the government.

The Congress candidates are mostly seasoned organisational leaders who have been able to withstand the BJP’s blitzkrieg, they say.

“There may be no agitation like the (Patidar) quota stir seen last time but people’s disappointment with the state government has deepened. I can’t see the BJP doing any better than last time,” the Dhoraji MLA says.

Saurashtra will go to the polls in the first phase on December 1 along with Kutch and south Gujarat. The second phase is scheduled for December 5 while the counting of votes is due on December 8.

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