Key to Gujarat

Poll

3) The coastal wave

HIRAL DAVE

SOMNATH

This was the place from where the BJP chartered its rise to power in the state but there's little to show for it. It was from Somnath that LK Advani began his rath yatra in 1990, a journey that ended in the BJP coming to power both in Gandhinagar and Delhi.

Ever since its first victory in Gujarat in 1995, the BJP has not looked back. But voters of this town on the Arabian Sea coast feel the party is not looking their way either.

All around there are pot-holed roads and open gutters. The infrastructure is hardly better in other areas of the region, despite the launch of the ambitious Rs 11,000-crore Saagarkhedu Yojana, which aimed to build roads, hospitals, and sewage lines in the coastal belt.

Modi has marketed the coastal belt to industry, with major projects like Adani Port, APG and Tata Power plants coming up in Kutch. But both the GPP and Congress have made industrialisation a major poll issue after Nirma's proposed cement plant in Mahuva was scrapped due to environmental concerns. The plant was fiercely opposed by Dr Kalsaria, the local rebel BJP MLA, whose new party, Sadbhavna Manch, has emerged as a major challenge in five coastal seats in Amreli and Bhavnagar districts.

Another challenge for the BJP can come from fishermen who are spread across 3,000 villages from Kutch to Valsad. They are upset that their demands for diesel subsidies and modern and improved ports have not been met yet, even though Modi had announced that they will be covered in the second phase of his Sagarkhedu Yojana. But as Jiva Koli, a fisherman in Somnath, says, "It is too late, too little''.

Now that the voters have many options—Gujarat Parivartan Party led by Keshubhai Patel, Sadbhavna Manch of BJP rebel Dr Kanu Kalsaria and several independents—the BJP has a daunting task ahead to save not only Somnath, but some 15 constituencies on the 1,600-km coastal belt. Sitting BJP candidate Rajshi Jotava is locked in a three-way fight against former MLA Jasa Barad of the Congress, Balu Vaja of the GPP and BJP rebels Ravi Gohil and Jagmal Vala, both contesting as independents.

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