Gujarat polls: Prestige battle on in minority and Dalit-dominated Danilimda seat as BJP seeks to trounce Congress

PTI, Dec 2, 2022, 11:43 AM IST

Representative Image (Source: PTI)

Ahmedabad: An intense battle of prestige is on between the BJP and the Congress over the control of the minority and Dalit-dominated Danilimda Assembly constituency in Ahmedabad city of Gujarat, which the saffron party has never won since the seat came into existence a decade back.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hopeful of breaking the jinx this time as it is pinning hopes on the division of Congress’s votes in the seat that is all set for a four-cornered contest with the entry of the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) into the fray.

Danilimda, a Scheduled Caste (SC)-reserved assembly segment is one of the 21 seats in Ahmedabad district and it will go to polls in the second phase – on December 5. It was carved out following delimitation and has so far witnessed two assembly elections – in 2012 and 2017. It is one of the seats where the opposition party still holds clout.

The BJP had won 15 of these 21 seats in Ahmedabad district in 2017, whereas the Congress won the remaining six.

The Danilimda seat has around 2 65,000 registered voters, of whom nearly 34 per cent belong to minority communities, whereas 33 per cent are from the Dalit-SC community. The remaining are from Patel and Kshatriya communities.

Congress’s Shailesh Parmar, who is also the party’s deputy leader in the Gujarat assembly, has been winning the seat since 2012 by bagging more than 50 per cent of the votes polled.

“Shailesh Parmar is always available for the people of the constituency, irrespective of their caste, creed, religion or political affiliations. He is loved and adored by the people in his constituency. He has done a lot for the constituency,” state Congress leader Manish Doshi told PTI.

According to local Congress leaders, the party’s key to victory from here has been the minority votes en-bloc and a big pie of the Dalit votes.

However, the entry of the Arvind Kejriwal-headed AAP and Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM has disturbed the poll arithmetic in the area.

The local Congress unit is apprehensive that the AAP might eat into its Dalit votes, whereas the AIMIM might divide the minority votes.

Suspended Congress leader and corporator Jamnaben Vegda contesting the poll as an independent has made the challenge tough for the grand old party in the area.

“This time, the election in this constituency is a bit challenging, as AIMIM and AAP are also contesting. Earlier, in a direct fight with the BJP and the caste combination in place, Congress always had an advantage. But we are confident of retaining this seat. It is a prestige fight for all the Congress workers,” a local Congress leader from the constituency said.

The BJP, which has pulled out all the stops to win the seat, has launched a blitzkrieg campaign in this and surrounding constituencies.

“There is a lot of resentment against the sitting MLA. He has done nothing for the development of the area. His defeat is a foregone conclusion. The BJP has never won the seat since its inception in 2012, but we will break the jinx this time. It was a matter of shame that we couldn’t win this seat despite the surrounding areas having a strong presence of the BJP. It is a prestige fight for us, and we will win,” BJP candidate from the seat Nareshbhai Vyas told PTI.

According to local BJP sources, it’s the confidence in winning the seat stems from the hope that AIMIM will eat into Congress’s minority votes and AAP into Congress’s Dalit votes.

“Out of the 2,65,000 voters, We are confident of the remaining 1,65,000 votes. This includes the votes of the Dalits and other communities,” a local BJP leader Jayesh Patel said.

The locals, however, refused to divulge their political preferences, but were divided on the performance of the sitting Congress MLA.

“Shailesh Parmar is there for us whenever we need him. In this area, if there are issues of police harassment, he is there for us,” Habib, a local of the constituency, said.

Dinesh Patel, another resident of the constituency, feels the area has witnessed less development as compared to surrounding assembly constituencies like Manninagar.

Being an SC-reserved seat, the AIMIM has pitted an SC candidate – Kaushikiben Parmar, who is campaigning on the poll plank of development of minorities and Dalit community in the area. The areas of the Danilimda seat bore the brunt of the post-Godhra riots in 2002.

The areas under the Danilimda constituency earlier used to be part of the Sarkhej constituency – the assembly seat of Union minister Amit Shah till 2007, before it was abolished in 2012. The area under Danilimda, which has urban voters, had been a safe seat for the BJP till 2007.

However, post-delimitation in 2012, the Congress got the upper hand with added areas primarily dominated by minorities.

Apart from the issue of development, a campaign on communal lines has been going on in the area, with the local BJP leaders claiming that it is the saffron camp which can keep a check on the minorities and protect the rights of the majority community. The Congress, however, has been campaigning on Parmar’s goodwill, his work in the area, and his efforts to maintain communal harmony.

The AAP is campaigning on the poll plank of good governance and civic issues in the area. The seat will go to polls in the second phase on December 5, and the counting will take place on December 8.

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