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Home > News > PTI

Gujarat poll: Congress, BJP to fight it out in Pavi-Jetpur

December 04, 2007 09:46 IST

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The predominantly tribal constituency in Vadodra district is all set to witness an interesting battle with the Bharatiya Janata Party nominating a person who is accused in several cases in the post-Godhra riots to fight a Congress strongman who lost last time from here.

Located around 220 km from Ahmedabad, this central Gujarat seat of Pavi-Jetpur was considered as the fortress of Congressman Mohansinh Rathwa, the former state forest minister who won six times in a row until his loss in 2002 to BJP's Vechat Baria.

But the BJP denied Baria a ticket this time and staked its cards on Jayanti Rathwa, who apparently led mobs against Muslims in the 2002 riots.

The BJP is banking heavily on the Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojna, an initiative which promises huge allocation of funds for tribal welfare as announced by Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images] in 2007.

But Mohansinh continues to be a powerful tribal figure and was instrumental in gathering huge crowds for several rallies addressed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi [Images].

"We know him well and he is always accessible. He interacts with everyone and takes active part in village functions and even cremations," says Hiralal, a tea vendor.

While both Congress and BJP have started door-to-door campaigns, the poll fever will catch on only after December 6 when public rallies would be held thereafter.

While Adivasi rights over land continues to be a predominant issue in this constituency, which goes to polls in the second phase on December 16, local issues like poor connectivity and irrigation are some of the other factors concerning the people.

Also, tanks installed without boosters to pump up water in villages is also becoming a poll issue.

According to BJP, Rathwa's main strength lies in the southern part of Pavi-Jetpur where he apparently commands the respect of over 75 of the constituency's 212 villages.

Party leaders point out that the state government's schemes for tribals and overall development of the constituency under Modi's rule will help the BJP retain the seat.

Congress, on the other hand, feels that since its candidate is a known face in the constituency, the party's chances of winning the seat is more.

Political analysts point that the Hindutva wave of 2002 that helped the BJP across central Gujarat and led to the defeat of Mohansinh is missing this time.

Another factor that might tilt the stakes in favour of Congress is the active drive by over 100 saints, led by Avichaldasji Maharaj from Sarsa, on the need for a change in the government, they say.

"The non-performance of the BJP legislator and the fact that the tribals have understood that it was foolish to side with that party will make us come back," claims Ranjit Rathwa, Youth Congress president of Vadodra and son of Mohansinh.

Local small time traders and shopkeepers also feel that Mohansinh is all set for a comeback.

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