In land of cars, splurging is trend and caste is key


Sanand town, site of Tata Motors' Nano plant and ready to welcome carmakers Ford and Peugeot next, presents an impression of prosperity to any visitor. Mudhouses have been replaced with concrete buildings. Vehicles struggle to find parking space, for household after household has bought cars and motorbikes, with residents having turned newly rich from the compensation they got for land.

The way the newly rich are splurging, however, many say all the money will be gone one day, with Sanand still lacking basic infrastructure and a model for sustainable growth.

Yet it is caste equations that parties are striving to get right in Sanand, a new constituency carved out of parts of former minister Amit Shah's Sarkhej seat and areas of Ahmedabad district. The Congress has nominated a candidate from the dominant Koli Patel community.

The BJP has fielded a Rajput, a community with little sway here. At an open meeting on Monday evening, the presence of leaders from the Thakore, Patel and Rathod communities marked an effort maintain the caste balance. Hukumdeo Yadav, MP from Bihar, who called Sonia Gandhi a "kulakshini bahu" at the meeting, never mentioned development.

Whether there has been development at all is, in fact, a question that divides residents. Habib Khan, 51, Sanand taluka vice-president in the BJP's minority cell, has three Tata cars, a Nissan, an open jeep and several motorbikes parked in his backyard. Khan is sarpanch of Rasulpura, one of the dozens of villages that sold huge areas of land to the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC).

"This is development for sure," says Khan. "Five years ago we had to struggle to feed ourselves. We had land but there was no certainty of crops. Today, we sell land here and buy some outside Sanand, and deposit our money in banks."

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