Known to all, but every vote counts

Kalu Maliwad

A tata Safari drives into the nondescript village of Limbodra, some 15 km from Lunawada town, followed by a Maruti Zen. Around 15 villagers, a mix of young and old, stand up to greet the man who steps out of the vehicle. Kalu Maliwad, who is contesting the election from Lunawada as the BJP candidate, is a familiar face to them. He was the MLA in 2002, lost the next time, and is contesting for a third successive

time now.

Maliwad knows the difference between victory and defeat in this constituency can be wafer-thin, and has

suffered from one such margin. "I was defeated by 84 votes in 2007,"he says. "I don't blame the Congress for my defeat, but my own party workers, who worked against me under the guidance of former Godhra MP Bhupendra singh Solanki." A party worker accompanying Maliwad said no party in Lunawada had won twice in a row,which brightens Mailwad's chances. Ratnabhai Thakor, a villager in Bhamra, says he cannot say who will actually win, as the contest this time is triangular, with Keshubai Patel's GPP also fielding a candidate. Maliwad approaches the villagers who have lined up and shakes hands with all, one by one, then settles down on one of a few plastic chairs laid out for him and with his party workers. "I have come here to appeal to you to come out and vote on December 17, and press the button on the lot us,"he begins routinely, then adds, "Ask for voter slips from the booth officer and don't return without your slips like you did last time."

Maliwad started campaigning on Wednesday, choosing to begin with visits to villages that are dominated by the Darbar caste,who belong to OBCs and whom he counts as his loyal voters. He says the OBCs in the region can define the final equation as they constitute nearly half the 2.35 lakh-odd voters in the constituency.

... contd.

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