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|February 25, 1998|
Dull campaigning for Kutch seats
Although elections to the Lok Sabha and the six assembly seats in Kutch, Gujarat's biggest district bordering Pakistan on its north, are just a few days away, electioneering continues at slow pace. While one finds advertisements and banners proclaiming that parties have opened election offices in various locations in the sprawling constituencies, enthusiasm among the public is sorely lacking.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which has a permanent office building in Rajkot, is better off than its rivals. But regarding manpower, even the BJP has only a few leaders willing to take responsibility for the campaign. Rashtriya Janata Party Lok Sabha candidate Champaklal Shah is doing his bit.
"The time is short and we planned our campaign in such a way that candidates will remain in direct contact with people in the limelight at the village level," says Arun Vachhrajani, the BJP district president. Former Gujarat chief minister Suresh Mehta opened his election office in Mandvi, Kutch, two weeks ago.
The BJP's early announcements that all its present assembly legislators and members of Parliament would be renominated gave its candidates sufficient time to begin preparations. "I completed my first round of my sprawling constituency a month ago, and my second round a fortnight back," says the BJP's assembly candidate from Bhuj, Mukesh Zaveri.
Zaveri has reason for confidence because he has endeared himself to all, even the Muslims, living in the Banni area with his good work. At his office, there are always people from the Banni villages seeking help or advice.
His main rival is RJP candidate Anirudhsinh Jadeja, who is allegedly embroiled in a local controversy. Though the RJP leadership has given him a clean chit, few believe it.
In Mandvi, Suresh Mehta faces two formidable
opponents in Jay Kumar Sanghvi (RJP) and Shivdas Patel of
the Congress. In the last assembly election, Sanghvi as the Congress candidate had given Mehta a tough fight. He defected to the RJP after the Congress did not give him a ticket this time.
In Anjar, with 11 candidates in the fray, the primary fight is between Nimaben Acharya of the Congress and Ayar Vasan Gopal of the BJP. Both protagonists are popular and have their own vote banks, making it an even fight.
In the Mundra constituency, reserved for scheduled castes, Parbat Sodham of the BJP has an edge over Congress first-timer, Khimji Tharu.
In Abadasa, the only seat the Congress won in 1996, by Nimaben Acharya, a fierce battle rages between former district BJP president Narendrasinh Jadeja and Ibrahim Ishaq Mandhra of the Congress.
The RJP candidate is Mohammed Hanif Memon. Jadeja could win if the decisive Muslim vote is divided between the two minority community candidates.
The Lok Sabha contest is between Pushpadan Gadhavi of the BJP, Mahesh Thaker of the Congress and Champaklal Shah of the RJP. Gadhvi, who won the last election by 100,000 votes, is likely to repeat his feat this time. Shah and Thaker, both of whom were MLAs some time ago, lack Gadhavi's mass base and popularity.
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