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BJP has its task cut out in Saurashtra-Kutch
November 22, 2007 15:13 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party may find it difficult to maintain its current strength in the Gujarat assembly with Saurashtra and Kutch regions becoming a hotbed of rebel activity ahead of the polls in the state in December.
In the 2002 elections, the BJP had won 39 out of the 58 seats from the state's western region which comprises the largest number of seats in comparison to other areas and has an important say in deciding which party will rule Gujarat. The Congress had won 18 seats from the region and one seat had gone to an independent candidate.
BJP stalwart Keshubhai Patel, who is leading the rebel movement in the state, belongs to this region. The politically powerful Patel community to which the veteran leader belongs, also has a say in many constituencies of the region, election observers say.
Another community which has a large presence in Saurashtra and is also miffed with the BJP is the OBC Koli community.
The Patel and Koli communities were committed voters of the BJP for the last two decades. However, with the leaders of both the communities coming out in open against the "self-styled dictatorial attitude" of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP might find it difficult to maintain its lead in the crucial area where the polls will be held on December 11.
The BJP rebels have held farmers' meetings in Saurashtra to create a public atmosphere against Modi. The tables may turn this time as the Congress claims that it could get around 40 seats in Saurashtra and the BJP being left with not more than 18 seats, according to rebel BJP leader Gordhan Zadafia.
"We have created an anti-Modi atmosphere in Saurashtra and Kutch by organising more than 100 farmers' meetings and that will be reflected in the elections," Zadafia said.
Zadafia maintained that the Congress has given tickets to all rebel BJP MLAs who had wished to contest elections. "They will land a death blow to the aspirations of the BJP and make a difference for the Congress," he said.
The Congress is also confident that it will win the maximum number of seats from the area this time. "Our effort to form a secular alliance in the state to stop division of votes and inclusion of BJP dissidents, NCP candidates and other like-minded parties will help us in gaining maximum number of seats in the region," Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee leader Shaktisinh Gohil said.
In an attempt to quell the combined power of the rebels and the Congress, the BJP has given the maximum number of tickets to the Patel and Koli community members in the area.
However, state finance minister Vaju Vala said there will be no effect of the rebels on the BJP's prospects. "The Congress was not getting proper candidates and that is why it took such a long time to come out with their first list. The candidates chosen by them are also not very powerful," Vala said.
"Keshubhai is a senior leader of the party and will not work against the party," Vala said when asked whether the Keshubhai factor will affect the BJP's poll prospects.