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|September 4, 1999||
Congress looks in vain for a 'magic wand' in Bharuch
P Rajendran in Bharuch
Amarsingh Vasava, an acolyte of local bigwig and Janata Dal (United) MLA Chhotubhai Vasava, joined the Congress on August 15. On August 18, he held a party ticket for Bharuch Lok Sabha constituency.
The other Congress workers weren't amused and another rebellion on the lines of the one in Surat constituency appeared likely. Then senior leaders like Ahmed Patel stepped in and pacified everyone. Now, on the outside, dissidence is absent though resentment may still be brewing.
On the other hand, the BJP has reason to feel good. For in Bharuch, which has a 23 percent Muslim population, there are quite a few of the minority community willing to back a party that brandishes the Hindu card.
Ghulam Rasool, who owns a cloth shop, says the BJP is likely to win. He himself will back it. Why?
Because they help out everywhere. If you have a problem at the municipality, they're there he says. Asked if he himself had any party affiliations, ''I am a trader,'' he says.
Raju Sauldhir, another shopkeeper, also backs the BJP. ''They hold meetings here to address the problems of the people,'' he says. And the Congress? ''The Congress, well, they do nothing,'' he replies.
Another Muslim, Sakhil Lokhandwala, also thinks the BJP is likely to win. But he doesn't say any further. Dr Jamnadas Khilwani, a physician, also backs the BJP. Why?
''There's a BJP wave on. And they did ensure a government that wasn't corrupt. Then there is Kargil. The BJP got India international backing and exposed Pakistan,'' he explains, adding, ''they hold meetings every 15 days or so to solve people's problems.'' He too dismisses the Congress as of little consequence.
The BJP city in-charge Menubhai Patil exudes confidence. ''Mansukhbai Vasava will win by one lakh votes,'' he says, anti- incumbency factor notwithstanding.
Things may have been different if Chotubhai Vasava of the JD (U) himself had been in the fray but the man chosen to replace him doesn't stand a chance.
The JD (U)'s lack of optimism can perhaps be seen in the dearth of party offices in the city. No one seemed to have a clue where they were. Perhaps there are some in Ankleshwar, says Chiraj Goel, a telephone booth owner.
Congress city committee general secretary, Ashwin Khambata, says things are easier because Chotubhai himself is not contesting. And opinion in the JD (U) is divided because Vasava after all is an old friend.
Asked if there was any weapon his party could use against the BJP he admits there isn't one. How then could Amarsingh be called the better candidate? Khambata replied, ''he speaks about uplifting the Adivasis.'' How? He smiles and doesn't reply.
Then he says that the real problems of the constituency -- the shortage of drinking water, the skewed development that leaves Ankleshwar over-developed and dirty Wagra zilla under- developed and the lack of a proper irrigation system -- are addressed by no party.
Another Congressman says people aren't interested in elections now. ''While the party workers are quite happy to go about shouting slogans, they are reluctant to meet people personally; politicians don't have a magic wand,'' he complains.
The Congress candidate appears confident though. ''There are issues like the lack of water, education, health, pollution and unemployment,'' says Amarsingh Vasava. But wouldn't he be hobbled if his party members objected to a new candidate ordering them around?
''Of course, that is no problem. All that matters is the party,'' he blusters.
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