Amreli: Even as the BJP is eyeing to retain all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat, the Congress has high hopes from seats like Amreli, a predominantly agrarian region, as it feels that farm issues will be a key factor since farmers there are "unhappy" with the Modi government.
The Congress has fielded its leader of opposition in Gujarat Assembly, Paresh Dhanani, from Amreli seat located in Saurastra region, against two-time BJP MP Naran Kachhadiya.
The opposition party claims that since the farmers are not happy with the Modi government, they would vote against the ruling party this time. However, the BJP had won all the 26 seats in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 and the saffron party wants to repeat its performance.
Amreli constituency is primarily an agrarian district as the region lacks proper ecosystem for industrial development.
Of the seven Assembly constituencies falling under Amreli Lok Sabha seat, Congress had won five in the 2017 Gujarat elections.
Patidar agitation led by Hardik Patel had helped the Congress against the BJP to some extent. However, this time the factor may not make much difference.
Congress believes that a more serious issue of farmers distress and their "anger" towards the ruling party will help it clinch the Lok Sabha seat.
Promises made by the Congress in the manifesto to have a separate farmers' budget have found support among the voters in Amreli, along with the assurances of loan waiver and ending the system of making non-payment of loan a criminal offence, the party leaders believe.
"Nearly everyone here is engaged in farming activity, directly or indirectly. And they all understand that the Modi government has failed in fulfilling the tall promises it had made to them, including that of doubling of farmers' income.
Besides, demonetisation has hurt the people badly," district Congress president Ashok Sosa said.
"In our manifesto, we have promised to address all the issues, and voters from the farming community are with us," he says.
Kanji Der, a farmer from Lathi taluka in the district, says farmers in his village feel cheated as the BJP-led state government did not give benefits due to them although the area was declared drought-hit.
There are also allegations that crop insurance was not being paid to farmers by private insurers and the government.
Farmers allege that the central and state governments introduced compulsory crop insurance policy to benefit private parties.
"Forget doubling our income, the government came up with a system to take away our money in the form of crop insurance. Even if we are paid, it is a pittance," Der said.
The constituency, which comprises parts of Amreli and Bhavnagar districts, has a dominant presence of Patidar and Koli communities.
Dhanani had won the Amreli assembly seat in 2017 and was made the party's leader of opposition in state assembly, while Kachhadiya is seeking his re-election for the third time after winning two previous elections.
Kachhadiya is banking on his performance as an MP and lists the works delivered by him in the last five years, including conversion of metre-gauge line into broad-gauge, which was approved in the last budget; national highway projects improving connectivity to Amreli, and an FM radio station in Amreli.
Senior BJP leader Dileep Sanghani says the BJP has addressed issues affecting farmers and the party is confident of winning another term.
"Patidar quota agitation, which helped the Congress in 2017, is no longer an issue. In our manifesto, we have promised to address issues concerning farmers.
"In the Assembly polls, the Congress had won five out of seven seats (under this LS cosntituency), but a combined difference of vote was only 50,000, which we have managed to reverse," Sanghani, who represented Amreli for four terms- in 1991, 1996, 1998 and 1999- said.
"In our manifesto, we have promised to address issues of farmers by making the crop insurance policy a voluntary one, and we have already transferred Rs 2,000 into their accounts (under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme)," he says.
There are a total 16,27,980 registered voters in Amreli constituency, which the Congress had last won in 2004.