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BJP fields RSS man, plays caste card to wrest key Congress seat

BJP fields RSS man, plays caste card to wrest key Congress seat

Deesa, Gujarat, Dec 4 (UNI) The Banaskantha district in North Gujarat is hardly a BJP forte. Braving strong 'Narendra Modi' wave the district had returned six Congress MLAs out of 9 in state assembly elections in 2012.

Five years back, Liladharbhai K Vaghela of BJP defeated his closest rival Rajendra Dhudabhai Joshi of Congress by 17,706 votes. But the seat soon came to Congress fold in 2014 - by-election after Govabhai Desai of Rabaria caste defeated Lebbjibhai Thakore.The bypoll was actually necessitated after the then legislator Liladharbhai Vaghela went to Lok Sabha as MP for Patan parliamentary seat.

While Congress party banking on its new and old support base both in urban and rural hubs has remain confident that their sitting legislator Govabhai Desai would be able to retain the seat, the saffron party poll managers have applied 'good caste synthesis' to wrest the seat -- considered the nerve centre of textile business in the region.

"It is a smart caste game the BJP has fielded. They have fielded a RSS leader and a Brahmin. The idea is to win votes from cross sections of castes. In the past, BJP has suffered in this seat when they fielded either a Mali or a Koli as Kolis and Malis have been traditional rivals politically in the manner Jats and Gujjars are in Rajasthan," explains Tapan Jeswal, Editor of Deesa-based vernacular daily, 'B K News'.

BJP booth worker Manis Tank seems to endorse the analysis of the journalist Jeswal and says, "Such analysis is partly right. But we are not pursuing any caste game. Our candidate Shashikant Pandya is a respectable face in Deesa for his long association with the RSS. We are confident of winning the seat. This seat is a good indicator of any party's presence in Banaskantha district".



The confidence of BJP workers however cannot conceal a fact that traditionally rural pockets of Deesa assembly seats have been in favour of Congress. The opposition party has also fared well amongst Muslims, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes- but mostly living in hubs falling under rural booths.



The BJP calculation is also to make a dent among 90,000 urban voters. "We are eyeing Deesa city-area voters," says BJP worker Tank.

In a way apparently, BJP fielding a 'respectable' face could help the saffron party.

"I am hundred per cent Congress voter. This time you be doubly sure that I will vote against GST and Notebandi policies of Modi government. But my mother will vote for BJP candidate as they know each other for years. And I cannot help it," says Deesa town's prominent cloth merchant Amritbhai Mali.

However, the traders' anguish on GST and demonetisation decisions of Modi government is palpable.

A 46-year-old shopkeeper Ajitbhai Patel says, "We might still like Narendra Modi. But his policies need to be opposed. We may vote for him in 2019, but in assembly polls he needs to understand our anguish".

Another businessman in his early thirties - Ramkrishna Jasubhai said, "Modi remains a Gujarati role model. But his Finance Minister (Arun Jaitley) and others have misled him. Anandiben Patel spoiled the relation with Patidars".

UNI DEVN CJ AE 0926

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