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Coverage: The battle for Gujarat
"I am fighting this election because I want to send a message to the people of Gujarat that in order to uphold the spirit of democracy it is essential to take on a dictator like Narendra Modi.
"You are left with no choice. All intelligent and cultured people must take up the challenge to defeat Modi and put in all the energy in the election," Dinsha Patel, who will face Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the December assembly election, said.
The mere knowledge that 70-year-old Patel will challenge him in Ahmedabad's Maninagar constituency will be quite discomforting for Modi. Not because he sees Patel as a difficult electoral challenge, but because for Patel, victory or defeat is irrelevant, and that is the least Modi wants.
"I am not excited about losing or winning. What is an election? It is merely a part of a process. It strengthens democracy. Winning or losing is not a big deal when you are strengthening democracy," Patel said.
Some four days back, Patel was told he could be asked to contest against Modi. Obviously, he was reluctant and requested his party to look for a local candidate from Ahmedabad. So it comes as no surprise that most supporters think he has been made a sacrificial lamb.
In the 2004 general election, Patel was about to join the Bharatiya Janata Party because the Congress's prospects were not that good and also because the Khastriyas were dominating the Congress while his community was solidly behind BJP.
In 1998, his own prot�g� Pankaj Desai had defeated him in the assembly elections after joining the BJP. Patel was so disillusioned with politics on the communal line that he had almost lost hopes.
Though a man of simple taste and humble behaviour, Patel can indeed turn on the tact faucet whenever needed.
Patel, who began his political career in 1972 winning the Ndiyad municipality, can counter Modi's hyper-actions and reactions with natural flair and also draw from the experience of having fought 12 elections in the last 40 years, including five assembly polls and four Lok Sabha polls. He came into his own when he was in the Old Congress.
He has a long association with Gandhian institutions also. He belongs to the Patel community, which is well-integrated in Kheda district. Most of his family members are abroad.
He has the added qualification of being the president of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Memorial, the biggest body in memory of the great man.
When asked whether he agrees Modi is a formidable and popular opponent, Patel said, "Gujarat knows me too. I don't backtrack once I take up something."
In Maninagar, Patel claims that out of the approximately 230,000 voters, around 75,000 are Patels, 16000 Christians, 18000 Muslims and a large chunk Dalits and the poor. Following this piece of statistic, Patel, like all politicians in election mode, claims, "I am going to win. I am a Patel. I am not afraid of anything. Nothing scares me."
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