December 7, 2022

AAP relies on Patidars and diamond, textile workers in Surat

Walking through the narrow lanes of Gulam Falia, Surat, it is easy to miss the Dutch Cemetery, the final resting place of Hendrik Adriaan van Reede. Besides his keen sense of administration, the former governor of Dutch Malabar was also known for his botanical magnum opus, Hortus Malabaricus. Next to the Dutch cemetery is the Armenian cemetery. Both were lucky enough to survive the devastating floods of 2006. The British Cemetery is just a few miles away. “These cemeteries tell us the rich history of Surat. People from all over the world used to come here to trade,” said Sanjay Choksi, photographer and history buff. The port of Surat was famous all over the world and the flags of 84 countries flew high there, which gave it the name of Surat Choryasi. And the prosperity continues, the city being India’s textile and diamond hub.

The AAP tells voters that based on its initiatives in electricity, health, education and allowances for the unemployed and women, a family will be able to save at least Rs2 lakh per year.

I lost my house to a flyover project. I had built it after struggling so much. I never got any compensation. now I stay in a rented place. It hurts. ― Devtadhin Dhobi, ironer from Surat

As Gujarat prepares to elect a new government, Surat is at the heart of the action, with the city home to BJP Chairman CR Patil and several other stalwarts. With a network of flyovers, new housing projects, an upcoming metro system and the label of being the second cleanest city in the country, development is visible across Surat, and the BJP is quick to pick up the pace. claim merit. “We have the three-engine government. BJP in the Center, State and Municipality,” said Niranjan Zanzmera, Chairman of Surat Unit of BJP. “Our brahmastra is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

Of Surat’s 16 seats – 12 in the city and four in adjacent areas – the BJP lost only one in 2017. The electoral importance of Surat and South Gujarat can be gauged by the fact that the Modi’s first meeting after the declaration of elections was at Kaprada in Valsad district. “We are aiming to win all 12 seats in Surat city and we will also get the other four. Our aim is to increase the lead,” Zanzmera said.

But that may not be an easy task, especially with simmering resentment against ever-increasing inflation. The Patidars are unhappy, as are those working in the diamond, textile and unorganized sectors. Devtadhin Dhobi, 62, works less than two kilometers from the sprawling BJP office in the city. Hailing from Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh, Dhobi is unhappy with many things including the rising cost of cooking gas. A ironer of modest means, he paid Rs 1,100 for a cylinder last month and wonders why the BJP government couldn’t bring him down. Congress has offered to provide a gas canister for Rs500. “The rail pass that used to cost 300 rupees now costs 1,700 rupees. Milk prices increase every two or three months,” he said. The development, he says, is not limited to large stadiums, flyovers and statues. “I lost my house a few years ago to a flyover project. I had built it after struggling so much. I never received compensation and now I live in rented accommodation which costs 2,200 rupees per month. It hurts,” Dhobi said.

Dhobi declined to reveal his voting preference, but observed that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party Aam Aadmi made strong points. “Kejriwal talks about 300 units of free electricity per month and lower property tax. This happened in Delhi and Punjab. Although the AAP apparently does not target any particular social stratum, the middle class, petty bourgeoisie and the poor are attracted by the party’s campaign promises.

In a small alley in the city, Shobha Chauhan, 50, assembles necklaces. She gets Rs60 for a thousand coins, but that is woefully insufficient to meet the needs of her family of six. So she also sells pan masala. “Nobody helps the poor. We are being run from pillar to pillar and now the amount of grain we are getting from the ration store has also gotten worse,” she said.

An indication of the challenge the BJP may face in the city is evident from Varachha ― also called mini Saurashtra ― dominated by the Patidars. Two days after joining the AAP, PAAS (Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti) leaders from Surat, Alpesh Kathiriya and Dharmik Malaviya, organized a bike rally and received an enthusiastic welcome. “Varachha is a hotspot,” said Pradip Jadhav of Chai Makers by Engineers. Jadhav, 46, who started his catering business with his 24-year-old engineer partner, Ganesh Dudhnale, a few years ago, said the AAP did quite well in Varachha during the company’s last elections Surat Municipal Council (SMC), when the party surprised everyone by winning 27 out of 120 seats. While the BJP retained power, Congress, for the first time, did not open its account.

Rakesh Hirpara, a senior member of the AAP in Surat, said the party’s origins in the city date back to 2013 when it started addressing issues such as rising electricity and utility bills. property tax, as well as various alleged scams. During the first wave of the pandemic, AAP workers went house to house with pulse oximeters to measure patients’ oxygen saturation levels. Those who needed treatment were taken to hospital. While the AAP’s early electoral forays failed, the SMC’s latest elections brought change. “For the first time, the voters turned in our favor. Normally they vote for the BJP,” he said.

Rachna Hirpara, a first time corporatist, joined the AAP just a month and a half before the elections as she was moved by the problems faced by the common man. “I didn’t even know what a corporation was and what a corporator was supposed to do,” said Hirpara, who only studied until seventh grade. She and her 12-year-old son, Swayam, embarked on a door-to-door campaign, although her husband, Ankur, was unsure of its success.

For the upcoming Assembly polls, the AAP was the first party to announce the list of candidates, and it is relying heavily on promises made by Kejriwal. The party tells voters that based on the initiatives it has announced in the areas of electricity, health, education and allowances to be given to the unemployed and women, a family will be able to save at least Rs2 lakh per year. According to Kiran Desai of the Center for Social Studies in Surat, “The Patels, who have benefited from the land reforms, form a homogeneous group. Still, the results of the 2017 elections in the Surat region were surprising. »

The AAP hopes that the work of its corporators at SMC will translate into votes in the assembly polls. The party is eyeing voters like Shilpa Goyani and Kajal Gajera. Their families earn less than Rs 20,000 per month and they used to find it extremely difficult to run their home and educate their children. After the PAA representatives made changes in the schools run by the companies, they enrolled their children in these schools and made big savings. Previously, they paid beyond their means to keep their children in private schools. “There is corruption everywhere and we are taken to government offices several times to get things done,” Goyani and Gajera said.

In the Patidar-dominated Varachha Road seat, the AAP fielded Kathiriya, once a close aide to Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who moved from Congress to the BJP. Kathiriya, who has been in jail for 14 months, also faced sedition charges. “I had offers from the BJP and Congress,” he said, adding that he preferred the AAP so he could join the people in struggle. “I’m not afraid of cases,” he said. The president of the Gujarat unit of the AAP, Gopal Italia, is meanwhile in the running from Katargam.

At the election office of Ram Dhaduk, the AAP candidate for the Kamrej seat, party workers are coordinating minor details for upcoming rallies. Squatting on not-so-clean mattresses, their goal is to use available resources and manpower. Broken furniture and scattered election materials reflect the chaos, but the mood is good and hopes are high.

Congress has nothing to lose and any additions to its tally will be a plus. The party seems to have prepared well and tried to put forward good candidates. He is also making efforts to ensure that the AAP does not eat away at its share of the vote, especially in the pockets that voted for the big old party.

Gujarat Congress spokesman Naishad Desai, a native of Surat, said the party hoped to win four to five seats in Surat and improve its performance in neighboring areas. “People want change and they are fed up with the current government,” he said, and also alleged that Kejriwal was following in Modi’s footsteps. “It’s like announcing that you will get Rs15 lakh in your accounts [like Modi did]. But you know those promises are never kept.