Test for BJP in bastion with a changed profile
Among the Muslims here is the Chhipa community, known for its total commitment to a Chhipa candidate, while the official Congress candidate, Samir Khan Pathan, is a non-Chhipa. Pathan is a sitting municipal councillor from Sarkhej ward and is thus considered an "imported candidate" by voters. Pathan faces a challenge from Jamalpur's sitting MLA Sabir Kabliwala, a Chhipa who has rebelled against the Congress and is contesting as an Independent. Kabliwala claims a following among Dalit voters too. Unless there is a patch-up between Kabliwala and Pathan, things could work out in Bhatt's favour.
Bhatt says his strength is the fact that Pathan is an outsider and Kabliwala is a non performer. "Of 67 proposals he submitted from his MLA fund, Kabliwala could get only two cleared for Behrampura, that too worth around Rs 4.5 lakh. The total worth of his proposals was Rs 3.5 crore," Bhatt says.
Even in Congress-dominated areas, Bhatt is greeted affectionately. Self-employed Women's Association activist Rajiben Parmar, 70, who lives in Vasant-Rajabnagar in Behrampura ward near Christian Society, has apprehensions whether Bhatt can win because "it is their area" but wishes he can.
Parsifal Lilaram Karia, who lives in the Mahatma Gandhi Society, had migrated from Hyderabad (Sind) during Partition. He declares his affection to for the BJP more than for the candidate. "I love the BJP and I will vote only for that party," he says, while offering Bhatt cashew nuts.
Asked if this election will test the influence of his father, Bhatt says, "Jamalpur and Behrampura are new to me, but I know that they have remained deprived of basic facilities under Congress corporators. People will vote out of confidence in Ashok Bhatt, who was MLA for 40 years. I am the only local official candidate here this time."