Ahmedabad: With just two days to go for the by-elections in Gujarat, all eyes are set on the contest, especially in the prestigious Maninagar Assembly seat vacated by Narendra Modi after becoming Prime Minister.
Both the ruling BJP and Opposition Congress have left no stone unturned to woo the voters, for the bypolls to one Lok Sabha and nine Assembly seats to be held on September 13.
Maninagar is a traditional bastion of BJP since late 90s, but it came into limelight after Modi contested from there in 2002 and won. Riding on ‘development' wave, he won subsequent Assembly elections of 2007 and 2012 from the seat.
Maninagar Assembly seat falls under the Ahmedabad West Lok Sabha constituency. At present, Maninagar has over 2.43 lakh registered voters.
In 2012, Modi defeated Congress candidate Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, by a huge margin of over 86,000 votes. The voter turnout at that time touched 70 per cent.
Maninagar comprises a diverse population -Brahmins, Patels, Muslims, Christians, Marathis, south Indians and north Indians. While some areas are highly developed, such as Kankaria, some are yet to taste the fruit of ‘development'. BJP has chosen sitting corporator of Maninagar's Indrapuri ward Suresh Patel as its candidate, while Congress is banking on young advocate Jatin Kella.
Both of them are contesting their first Assembly-level election. According to Congress, absence of Modi coupled with “dissatisfaction” among the voters will definitely help them.
“It will definitely work in favour of us. People used to vote for him (Modi) because he was a Chief Minister.
He created a hype of development and took votes. Now, there is a strong undercurrent of anti-incumbency against BJP, as very few were benefited from such development model,” said Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi.
Congress is also banking on local issues of law and order and “lack” of basic infrastructure, such as frequent water logging and drainage issues.
“In just three inches of rain, Maninagar goes under two feet of water. This happens in every monsoon. Though civic body is ruled by the BJP, people claimed that it did nothing for them. People are now seeing a ray of hope in Congress,” said Doshi.
On the other side, Suresh Patel, who is also the chairman of water supply committee in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), claimed that the civic body has already approved several projects to tackle the problems of water logging in Maninagar.
“AMC has already approved four projects, including the installation of a pumping station at Millatnagar, to solve the water-logging problems in the area.
I don't see any dissatisfaction among the people,” claimed Patel. To a question on lack of enthusiasm among voters due to the absence of Modi, Patel said his party is working hard to bring voters to the polling booths.
“Since it is a bypoll, it is natural to find less enthusiasm among voters. But, all our party leaders, such as I K Jadeja, R C Faldu and Purushottam Rupala, have camped here for last many days to ensure high voter turnout,” he said. The counting of votes will be done on September 16.