Bumpy ride ahead for BJP in central Gujarat.
In the wake of Hindutva frenzy in 2002, 49 out of 52 constituencies in central Gujarat, which was traditionally a Congress stronghold, went the saffron way. However, the BJP's tally tumbled to 30 in the 2007 elections.
But if the ruling party is to recover its projected losses of Saurashtra, it will have to penetrate into the tribal voter base.
This time around, Hindutva is being raked up by both the BJP and newly- floated Gujarat Parivartan Party ( GPP), which is fast emerging as an alternative platform for disillusioned Hindutva hardliners. The potency of the religious sentimentality, however, is to be tested only at the EVMs.
Chief minister Narendra Modi announced ` 15,000 crore Vanvandhu Yojana ( for tribal development) in 2007 which has been extended for five more years; and the state government claims to have already spent ` 13,000 crores under the scheme.
" For starters, these high profile schemes are clever amalgamation of centrally- funded schemes, and the state government has to spend the money anyway," says a senior member of the RSS from Godhra. " But one also needs to see how the money is being spent," he adds.
" While a large chunk of money is being spent on organising the events where the CM is doling out the benefits, the beneficiaries are the ones with party affiliations. While 50 women receive benefits on stage, 25,000 sit and watch them from the audience," he said.
A local journal- ist from Halol, Mayur Jani, said: " There is large- scale corruption at the local level, which is feeding the discontent of the people." Yoga teacher Ramdev, reportedly, had to be called back from central Gujarat after he raked up several cases of corruption at the Centre by the Congress, in his yoga camps in the region. " Ramdev was here to campaign against Congress's corruption, but his efforts had a counter- effect and local corruption emerged as an issue among the literate voters of the small towns in central Gujarat," chuckles Jani.
That local corruption is an irritant is evident from the business community in the region. " In last couple of years, things have taken a turn for real bad, and irritation of people is showing," says a businessman from Godhra, requesting anonymity.
" These factors are likely to adversely impact the results for the BJP now," he adds.
What can further dent the fortune of the party is the rise of Keshubhai Patel, which is apparently all set to trigger off a counter wave of Hindutva in the region.
While many feel that the scenario in central Gujarat may largely retain the status quo, the delicate balance may swing either ways depending upon the right tweaking of any of the factors by the contesting parties.
If the BJP is to recover its projected losses of Saurashtra, it will have to penetrate into the tribal voter base
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