Vadnagar: As the election results poured in from Gujarat, it became clear that the BJP would be able to stave off a tough challenge from the Congress to win the state for the sixth time in a row.
Its seat share reduced drastically from what it is was in 2012 and it got a scare in quite a few key seats, but BJP will live to fight another day and rule over Gujarat once more. However, one area where the BJP’s magic did not work was the Prime Minister’s own hometown of Vadnagar.
Vadnagar is divided among two Assembly constituencies in Mehsana district — Kheralu and Unjha. While BJP candidate Shankarji Dhabi won the Kheralu seat by polling 49,241 votes or 40.01% of the vote share, Lalludas Patel ceded the bastion of Unjha to Congress candidate Dwarkadas Patel, who polled 74,438 votes or 54.23% of the vote share.
Lalludas Patel has been the five-time MLA from Unjha, which the BJP has not lost since 1995. One reason the BJP lost the election here is that Vadnagar, the PM’s hometown, has not escaped the agrarian distress facing the rest of the state.
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. 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.
Asked if he thinks farmers are happy, 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.”
Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressed a rally in Vadnagar and ensured that he struck a chord with the areas’ 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.”