AHMEDABAD/SURAT: Vivek Bodar (25), a worker at a diamond polishing unit in Surat, remarked casually that even a donkey can win on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket from Surat, as people here vote only in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and not the candidate.
Bodar and his group of friends, who were eating snacks at a roadside stall on a breezy evening, said that PM Modi is a clear favourite with voters in cities.
It was not a remark in isolation. PM Modi’s fan following in Gujarat’s urban areas is intact. Take the case of Raunak Panchal (30), an autorickshaw driver in Vadodara who excitedly pulled out his smartphone and showed a video he received on popular messaging application WhatsApp.
The video shows Modi receiving Russia’s highest civilian honour, a feat which had eluded his predecessors in the country’s top post.This, he said, was one of the many reasons why he enlisted his support for the BJP.All 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat are going to polls on April 23.
While they agreed that unemployment rate is high, they emphasised that this general election is also about the development work of the Modi government and a tough stance taken on national security. “Look at the national highways, Metro projects and other infrastructure projects. There has been so much development in the country,” Bodar said.
The urban voters in the state are spread across seven constituencies – East and West Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Jamnagar, Gandhinagar and Rajkot. BJP has been traditionally strong in urban areas of Gujarat.
While people in the age group of 18-40 spoke in favour of demonetisation and GST implementation, older people were largely critical of the government.
Loss of jobs and growing unemployment under the BJP rule is a cause of concern among voters but it is not enough to make them choose Congress.
“During demonetisation, several labourers lost their jobs initially but now it is back to normal,” Rajeshbhai Danji, 34, a tailor in Vadodara, said.
Development and pollution
People across Gujarat voiced concern over rising pollution in various cities and lack of potable water in the state.“Pollution has risen on a massive scale. Not a single political party has volunteered to address this issue yet. Hence, I’ll vote NOTA (none of the above) this time,” Azim Denani, an IIT aspirant, said.
Polluted drinking water is also an issue but it won’t influence voters’ choice.
For the majority of women in the state, safety remains a big issue. “There is no fear, unlike other states where women face security issues,” said Madhuben Patel from Ahmedabad West constituency.
Modi’s brand of muscular nationalism, as was demonstrated by the surgical strikes post-Uri attack and the airstrikes in Pakistan’s Balakot after the Pulwama bombing, found takers among urban voters.“I watched videos of Pakistani news channels on YouTube where it was said that the (Balakot) airstrikes did damage terrorist camps,” Yash Gami, 25, an employee in Surat’s textile market, said.