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PM Narendra Modi Reaps Brickbats and Bouquets in Birthplace as Farmers Remain Divided Over 'Vikas'

As the town and all its public spaces are dominated by Thakors, the powerful OBC community in North Gujarat, Congress hopes to make gains here with Alpesh Thakor, the young OBC leader who formally joined Congress just ahead of the elections.

Uday Singh Rana | News18.com

Updated:December 11, 2017, 10:31 AM IST
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PM Narendra Modi Reaps Brickbats and Bouquets in Birthplace as Farmers Remain Divided Over 'Vikas'
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets people during a visit to Vadnagar, Gujarat.(AP Photo)
Vadnagar: For any visitor to Vadnagar —the town doesn’t get many — it is impossible to escape being told about the town’s most famous former resident. Chanduji Thakor points to a secondary school, where he is a teacher, and says, “Did you know he studied here? Look where he is today.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hometown Vadnagar may not have a lot going for it, the nearest “big city” Mehsana is over 40 kms away, but the town holds on proudly to the fact that one of its residents is now sitting on the high chair in New Delhi. Nearly everyone says, beaming with pride, that this is “Narendrabhaino gam” (Narendrabhai’s village).

But not everyone shares the same emotions as Chaduji, like those who point out the lack of jobs in this small town that forces the youth to move to the cities to look for a livelihood.

As the town and all its public spaces are dominated by Thakors, the powerful OBC community in North Gujarat, Congress hopes to make gains here with Alpesh Thakor, the young OBC leader who formally joined Congress just ahead of the elections.

Despite the shifting caste focus, there are some in Vadnagar and other parts of North Gujarat, who claim they will stick with the BJP.

“We can be angry with BJP but not with Narendrabhai. He belongs to this town and that is a matter of pride for us. Ten years ago, Vadnagar did not have proper roads, the situation was worse than a village. But today, he (Modi) has paid back his hometown and we have good roads, power supply and drinking water,” said Chanduji Thakor.

Jaishan Thakor, from the BJP’s OBC Morcha in Vadnagar, joins the conversation at the tea shop, and sings further praises of Modi.

“Nobody has done so much work for farmers like the BJP. Congress claims that the farmers are angry in Gujarat but BJP is their best option. Gujarat’s farmers are happy!”

At this juncture, Shambhuji, a 67-year-old tea seller, looks visibly uncomfortable. Asked if he agrees with Jaishan, he said, “How are farmers happy? We are not earning enough with farming. Why do you think I have to sell tea at this age? To make ends meet. I don’t blame Narendrabhai for my situation but I can’t say I’m happy.”

Shambhuji runs a tea stall not far from Vadnagar station, where Modi is once said to have sold tea. At the same age as that of the Prime Minister, the cotton farmer has now resorted to selling tea.

“We used to earn a lot more five years ago, but our income has gone down. We used to get around Rs 1100-1200 for 20 kgs of cotton. Now we barely get Rs. 800. I don’t know if any party, BJP or Congress, can solve this and help the prices. I don’t want my children to continue with the same profession, but there are no jobs too to get out of agriculture,” said Sambhuji.

This is something that even Chanduji, an ardent Modi supporter concedes. “He is right. Vadnagar has the basic services but there are no industries here. Apart from farming, people don’t have a lot of jobs that they can do here. Many young people are forced to go to the nearby cities.”

Following the chants of ‘Congress aave chhe’ that led to a Congress rally by Rahul Gandhi, one could hear the Congress Vice-President daring the Prime Minister at his own backyard.

Gandhi said, “Narendra Modi delivered a speech on Narendra Modi. He spoke only about himself. This election is bigger than him or me. This election is bigger than BJP or Congress. This election is about Gujarat’s future.”

Rahul Gandhi then turned to the farmers, “This is my promise to you. When Congress forms the government, I want you to count ten days and after ten days, we will start the process for a loan waiver.” This drew applause from Madhavsinh Thakor, an 80-year-old farmer from Vadnagar who was listening to the Gandhi scion with rapt attention.

In his broken Hindi, he explained, “I voted for his grandmother, now I’m going to vote for him (Rahul). I had started to support the BJP but they have not done anything for us farmers. At this age, I want to retire with grace. But my entire family has to work to make our ends meet. Congress is promising a better future to us farmers. BJP is not even talking about us.”

Despite the resentment among farmers, admiration for Narenda Modi runs deep in Vadnagar.

Chanduji Thakor said, “Vadnagar is split among two assembly segments, Kheralu and Unjha. I can’t speak about the rest of Mehsana district, but Modi’s popularity will help BJP win both of these seats.”

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| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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