Late Santokben Jadeja’s son Kandhal Jadeja is taking on BJP strongman Vitthal Radadiya in the Porbandar Lok Sabha constituency. NCP’s Jadeja, with his family clout, will look to limit the chances of Radadaiya, the influential Leuva Patel leader, who is clearly perceived a hot favourite. Haresh Pandya reports.
Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace Porbandar is witnessing a close contest between late “godmother” Santokben Jadeja’s son Kandhal Jadeja, the Nationalist Congress Party candidate, and Bharatiya Janata Party’s firebrand leader Vitthal Radadiya.
Radadiya hit the national headlines when he was seen brandishing a gun at a toll booth attendant near Vadodara in October 2012. He was a Congress MP then.
The Porbandar seat has been allotted to the NCP as part of its seat sharing arrangement with ally Congress in Gujarat.
Kandhal Jadeja, the sitting MLA from Kutiyana constituency, belongs to the Mer community which has a sizeable strength in the Porbandar region.
Radadiya had quit Congress in a huff in February 2013 after being overlooked for the post of Leader of Opposition in the Gujarat assembly following the 2012 polls, and crossed over to the BJP along with his son and other supporters. He is regarded as the most influential leader of the Leuva Patel community in the entire Saurashtra region.
Jadeja’s candidature is considered a strategic move though he is not tipped to defeat Radadiya who has turned Porbandar into his bastion despite not actually hailing from there following his victory in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket by 39,503 votes and by 1,45,523 votes in the 2013 by-polls on a BJP ticket.
However, Jadeja is expected to at least limit the peasant leader’s chances in Porbandar.
Interestingly, although Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee president Arjun Modhwadia belongs to Porbandar, yet the grand old party has compromised on the Porbandar seat and given it to the NCP. The move is seen a result of Modhwadia’s drubbing at the hands of BJP strongman Babu Bokhariya in the 2012 assembly elections.
The Porbandar seat was dominated by the BJP from 1991 to 2004. Radadiya, who lost to BJP’s Harilal Patel by a slender margin of 5,703 votes in 2004, eventually won it for the Congress in 2009 by beating the saffron brigade’s Mansukh Khachariya. But it did not remain in the Congress hand as he himself won it back for the BJP in 2013.
Radadiya began his political career with the BJP in 1995. But pretty soon he parted ways with the saffron party along with Shankarsinh Vaghela and Girish Parmar to form the Rashtriya Janata Party before the latter merged with the Congress. Radadiya contested every election on a Congress ticket since 2002, and regardless of the Hindutva and Narendra Modi waves in Gujarat, he held his own and kept winning different elections even as many Congress bigwigs in the state were seen biting the dust.
Radidiya’s confidantes feel that the Congress, both at the state and the central level, never realised Radadiya’s true value and always sidelined him.
“The Congress has already begun realising how greatly they miss Radadiya in Saurashtra,” an aide said.
Though Radadiya is a hot favourite, he knows only too well that it will be a serious mistake to underestimate Jadeja and his family’s clout in the entire Porbandar district. Then the prominent caste and community factors will always be there and Radadiya will surely bank on the Leuva Patel votes.
Image: BJP’s Vitthal Radadiya (left) and Kandhal Jadeja