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It May Be Business as Usual in Surat for Gujarat Polls with Traders Backing PM Modi's Development, Infra Push

By: Pragya Kaushika

Edited By: Pathikrit Sen Gupta

News18.com

Last Updated: October 03, 2022, 15:17 IST

Surat, India

While industrialists seem to believe that Gujarat is the best state for trade, the migrant labourers that work in the industries are curious about the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, especially after it won 27 municipal seats in the Surat civic polls. Pic/News18

While industrialists seem to believe that Gujarat is the best state for trade, the migrant labourers that work in the industries are curious about the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, especially after it won 27 municipal seats in the Surat civic polls. Pic/News18

When the BJP won the challenging 2017 assembly elections in the state, getting 99 seats out of the total 182, a big part in the victory was played by Surat district, where the party won 14 out of the 16 seats

Gujarat Gameplan

The industry and business community in Surat district appear to be backing the Bharatiya Janata Party for a consecutive seventh term in Gujarat. Traders here have continued to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi in elections ever since he was the chief minister of the state.

The business community is considered to be the backbone of support for the saffron party in the state. Traders are also elated at the recent announcements of bullet train, Vedanta-Foxconn semiconductor unit, and greenfield airport project at Rajkot, which is the commercial capital of the Saurashtra region, and feel that the BJP has done splendidly to make Gujarat the industrial powerhouse of the nation.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the challenging 2017 elections in the state, getting 99 seats out of the total 182. A big part in the victory was played by Surat district, where the BJP won 14 out of the 16 seats. Even as poll observers had expressed doubts over Surat considering the impact of demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST) as well as the atmosphere created by the Patidar agitation, the BJP came out unaffected in the district.

Support for Modi

During his two-day visit to Gujarat from September 29, PM Modi will inaugurate phase 1 of the DREAM City — a project aimed to complement the rapid growth of the diamond trade in Surat.

The Prime Minister will lay the foundation stones and dedicate various projects worth more than Rs 3,400 crore. These include works for water supply, drainage projects, DREAM City, biodiversity park, among others.

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Sanjay Sarawagi, who is one of the top textile industrialists in Surat city, believes that textile industries including those in Navsari provide a livelihood to 20 lakh people and approximately 8 lakh of them are voters. Surat’s textile industries see production of 3.5 to 4 crore metres of cloth each day.

For him, it is the ease of doing business and continuous support from the government that are the prime factors why industrialists are satisfied with the ruling BJP.

“What does an industry want? Continuous electricity, roads, water, and infrastructure. The government has excellently delivered on these. We are always heard. Surat never used to get a minister, it is the first time that this part of the state too is represented in the cabinet,” said Sarawagi who is the managing director of the Laxmipati Group.

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While a few are a bit miffed with the two categories of GST at 5% and 12%, it does not appear to be an election issue.

For Vishal Pancheriwal, a textile industrialist, while the government charges 5% on sarees and 12% on readymade garments, having one GST in the middle of these figures makes the process easier and smooth. “We trade on credit and get the payments after three to four months but GST gets deducted automatically. We feel the pain and have requested the government to resolve it. But that is also an issue which is professional in nature. The sentiment in the community more or less is that BJP should stay,” he said.

As for Ashish Lakhani, vice president of Kiran Gems, one of the biggest names in the diamond industry, “everything is going well". “Now, there is no issue, everything is fine and the diamond industry too is doing well,” he summed up when asked about issues in the industry or any issue that can influence elections.

In 2017, Surat, a city known for its diamond and textile industries witnessed protests from traders regarding the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Now with top industries aligning with the ruling BJP, the coming elections seem to be less of a challenge for the party.

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“We have two core vote banks, one is traders and other is Patidars. In 2017, we faced a lot of resistance from both. Yet, we worked among them and resolved the crisis. Compared to that, this election looks far better as we have resolved issues with both of them,” said a senior BJP leader.

The class divide

Prakash Singh, a fruit seller in Surat, was flaunting his AAP guarantee card. A flower seller next to him seemed unimpressed while another shopkeeper standing nearby looked disparagingly at the fruit vendor as the latter showed a WhatsApp group of AAP which he is part of.

The flower seller, when asked about her preference of parties, only smiled and said, “Kaun hai woh, woj jhadu wala aya to hai par vote milegi ki nahi pata nahi (The ones with the ‘broom’ had come, but not sure if they’ll get the votes)". Singh standing next to her said, “Yeh BJP ko degi vote par market mein sabne AAP guarantee card banwaya hai (She will vote for the BJP, but everyone in the market has got AAP guarantee cards).” The shopkeeper jumped into the conversation while sipping tea. “Party to badalna chahiye, ab bohot din ho gaye aek sarkar ko (It’s time for change, this government has been in power for a long time),” he said.

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When asked if Aam Aadmi Party is the option, promptly came the reply: “AAP ka kuchh nahi hai, Congress hi aana chahiye (AAP is not in contention, it should be Congress).”

Similarly, in one of the textile factories in Surat, the workers too seem divided. A majority of them migrated from other cities are looking at the assembly polls with curiosity. A group of women workers folding the textiles laughed when asked about their political preference. Before they could say anything, the supervisor quipped, “Sab BJP ko vote dengi (They’ll all vote for BJP).” After he left, one of the women said, “Kejriwal bhi to aya hai, keh raha hai free bijli dega, dekho (Kejriwal came promising free electricity, let’s see).”

At a textile factory in Surat. Pics/News18

While industrialists seem to believe that Gujarat is the best state for trade, the migrant labourers that work in the industries are curious about the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, especially after it won 27 municipal seats in the Surat civic polls.

ALSO READ | The 2017 Election Had 54 Lakh First-Time Voters. BJP is Wooing Them for an Encore

However, even those who are amused by AAP’s entry into the state’s politics doubt whether those praising the party will vote for it or the Congress.

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first published:September 28, 2022, 08:00 IST
last updated:October 03, 2022, 15:17 IST