Junagadh: The Junagadh Lok Sabha constituency in Gujarat has been a BJP bastion since 1991, but the saffron party is not going to have it easy this time going by the results of the 2017 assembly polls.
The Congress has won the Lok Sabha constituency in the Saurashtra region only once in the last 28 years – in 2004 -but the opposition party is banking on its performance in the assembly polls to snatch the seat from the BJP.
In the 2017 elections, the ruling party had lost all the seven assembly segments that are part of the parliamentary
constituency to the Congress in the backdrop of issues like rural distress, water scarcity and low prices of agriculture products.
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The BJP has renominated its sitting MP Rajesh Chudasama, who will take on Congress MLA Punja Vansh. The two
were pitted against each other in 2014 also, with Chudasama emerging the winner by a margin of over 1.35 lakh votes.
Chudasama seeks to improve the 2014 victory margin this time on the ground that he helped set up a civil hospital
in Junagadh and set a long-planned ropeway project on the Mount Girnar on city’s outskirts rolling.
The sitting MP also has to his credit some road projects along the coastal region of Junagadh. The party is also highlighting the achievements of the Narendra Modi government.
Local BJP leader Sanjay Manvar said, “Any shortcomings will be ignored by people as they would like to vote for
Narendra Modi and see him continue as the prime minister.”
But this is not as easy as it appears to be, at least when we look at Congress party’s performance on seven assembly seats falling under this parliamentary constituency.
However, the Congress is expected to pose a stiff challenge to the BJP here in the April 23 elections.
In 2017, the Patidar reservation agitation, led by Hardik Patel, had played a key role in the Congress victory in
all the seven assembly seats. Patel has now joined the Congress.
The stir had led to a large chunk of Patidar votes shifting to the Congress, which also benefited by raising the
issue of agrarian crisis as nearly two-thirds of the Junagadh Lok Sabha constituency are in rural areas.
Patidars are a dominant caste group in Junagadh, next only to Kolis, with a large section of the two communities
engaged in farm activity.
Congress leaders said there is an “undercurrent” against Modi over his “failed” 2014 promises, which will help
the party win this BJP bastion.
“There is a clear undercurrent against the BJP. They won the 2014 election by making false promises. Farmers, businessmen are all upset,” said Congress MLA from Junagadh Bhikhabhai Joshi.
“Votes of Patidars, the second dominant caste, will certainly go to the Congress,” he said, adding it is likely that Koli votes will get divided between Chudasama and Vansh as both belong to the community.
Of the 16,41,528 registered voters in Junagadh, around 2.5 lakh hail from the Koli community, while two lakh are Patidars, as per an estimate. The BJP believes the Patidar agitation has lost steam now and will not impact its prospects
“The Congress won assembly seats in 2017 due to the Patidar agitation, but the issue is no longer relevant now,” Pradeep Khimani, a senior BJP leader from Junagadh.
“A large section of the Patidar community voted for the Congress in Junagadh in the last Assembly election. But assembly elections are fought on a different issue.
“The people of Junagadh have always supported the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, and this has traditionally been our seat. We do not see this changing this time around,” he said.
All the 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat will have a single phase polling on April 23. In 2014, the BJP had won all the 26 Lok Sabha seats.