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Where bikes, telephones matter more than Modispeak
Avinash Nair in Dharmpur (Gujarat)
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Gujarat Elections 2007

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December 04, 2007 10:45 IST

For people in this tribal constituency in Gujarat's Valsad district, development is synonymous with owning motorcycles, DTH connections and telephones and when elections come, they cannot think of anything but religiously vote for the Congress.

One cannot wait but ask about the sight of bottles filled with petrol at small roadside shops in Dharmpur, south Gujarat.

Pat comes the reply from one of the shopkeepers Chiman Patel: "Petrol is sold in this fashion because there are no filling station nearby."

But the people here do not see this as lack of development.

"A couple of years ago, there were hardly any two-wheelers around. Now, that's not the case. Most of the tribals living here now own motorcycles," reasons Patel, a local.

Dharmpur is one of the four ST constituencies of Valsad district, the others being Mota Pondha, Pardi and Umargaon.

"We have been voting for the Congress since years and this time also we are going to cast our votes for the party," says Uttam Kapadia of Aasura village near Dharmpur.

"Before elections, all the people get together and decide for whom to vote. This time also people will vote for Congress," Kapadia says, little impressed by Chief Minister Narendra Modi's [Images] growth and development mantra.

Neighbour Ahmed Sheikh says: "Here there is no divide between Hindus and Muslims. We live together, visit each others' homes and even vote for the same candidate. In some areas, political parties try to woo voters by offering money and liquor. But the tribals are intelligent. They will accept everything but will vote for the Congress," he says.

Ask Sheikh about development in the region, and he replies: "There is little development that has happened in the region. But there are good roads which have prompted many to buy two-wheelers."

Another local Deepak Vajri, who owns two motorcycles, says, "Our income has gone up. We now earn from farming and work as labourers the rest of the year in small industrial units located nearby."

"Even our women engage in vermiculture, dairying and other activities which add to our income," he says, adding he recently subscribed to a DTH connection.

Vajri, however, does not want to attribute this change in the living standard to any political entity.

Kadir Sindhi, who runs a shop here, says, "The telephone booths are a big hit among the people. They don't mind spending money to converse with their loved ones in nearby villages."

Sitting Congress Member of Parlaiment Tushar Chaudhary is optimistic about his party's chances when Valsad goes to polls on December 11.

"This time we have managed to woo back those voters who opted for the BJP during the Hindutva wave in 2002 when we won just 12 of the 29 tribal seats. This time we are sure of wresting at least 20 of them," Chaudhary hopes.

However, some feel it will not be a cakewalk for the Congress this time.

Navsu Kaudar of Titukhadak village, who complains of lack of roads and electricity during the past several years, feels it's time to give the BJP a chance.

"We heard Chief Minister Modi speak about his development plans in a public meeting at Dharmpur," says Kaudar.

"This time we are going to vote for the BJP and see if something changes in our village," says another villager Kaduganga Mokasi.

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