Quinquagenarian Vikram Bhai has been voting for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for more than two decades, but in this election, he is caught in a dilemma. With just three days left for voting in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar, he is still undecided on whether to continue with the tradition or a new party – AAP.
“Overall, there is a talk of Modi, but roads are broken in many villages,” says the 50-year-old man who works at a salt processing unit in Bhavnagar, a city situated along the Arabian Sea in Saurashtra region.
He continues: “Good leaders have already left Congress so that is not an option… I feel the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) might perform well in this election because they have done good work in Delhi and Punjab.”
This sentiment echoes among almost all sections of 18 lakh voters in Bhavnagar – from workers of salt units, and traders to farmers.
A former princely state, Bhavnagar is home to a large number of small industries and is known for salt production, diamond polishing, and the world’s largest shipbreaking yard. In the last assembly election, BJP emerged victorious on six out of seven seats in the district. One seat was bagged by Congress.
While common people praise the BJP government for maintaining law and order in the state, they complain of a slowdown in the pace of development after Prime Minister Narendra Modi left the state for the biggest role in New Delhi.
Despite anger against the BJP in some quarters, Manu Bhai, another salt worker, says he has unwavering faith in PM Modi and the BJP.
“The BJP is going to get another term in Gujarat. Due to the BJP rule, people now earn around ₹2000 daily. They (BJP government) is taking good care of government hospitals and roads are also gradually being built,” he declares.
Lack of employment opportunities and preference for ‘outsiders’ over the local workforce are among some of the common complaints in Bhavnagar.
“Local people don’t get jobs in these salt processing plants because the private company running these plants prefer hiring people from outside the state,” a man tells The New Indian.
But not everyone agrees.
Jeetu Bhai, who runs a roadside tea stall in Bhavnagar city, says private companies hire outsiders because they are hardworking people.
“If you want work, you can definitely get the job here. Nobody will come to your home to give a job. They (locals) don’t want to do hard work and then they complain.”
Polling in Bhavnagar will be held in the first phase of elections for the Gujarat Legislative Assembly on December 1. Senior leaders of the BJP and AAP have been campaigning in the district. PM Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah have held rallies in Bhavnagar. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal has also held two rallies. Another AAP rally to be led by party MP Sanjay is planned for Tuesday, November 29.
Gohail Khuman Sinh, the AAP candidate from Bhavnagar Rural segments, exudes full confidence about his victory.
“People want a change. They all are silent voters. If you ask them, they would say the BJP is going to win but they are scared of the BJP now.”
The AAP candidate raises the issues of employment, inflation, and the condition of roads.
“Gujarat model is only on papers. Children still get education in temples. Exam papers get leaked. People are frustrated here,” Sinh tells The New Indian.