Eye On Surat And South Gujarat Where The A-Listers Land Next

How Surat and the rest of south Gujarat will vote will decide 35 assembly seats. In 2012, the BJP had won all 12 seats in Surat and 28 of the total 35 seats in South Gujarat. The Congress hopes to reverse that result.

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Eye On Surat And South Gujarat Where The A-Listers Land Next

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Rahul Gandhi is campaigning aggressively all over Gujarat to try and tap into the resentment over GST

Surat:  BJP chief Amit Shah, who has set a target of 150 out of 182 assembly seats for the party in the December elections, will visit Surat in south Gujarat next week. Four days before that, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will visit the important textile and diamond hub and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit soon too.

How Surat and the rest of south Gujarat will vote will decide 35 assembly seats. In 2012, the BJP had won all 12 seats in Surat and 28 of the total 35 seats in South Gujarat. The Congress hopes to reverse that result. Rahul Gandhi is campaigning aggressively all over Gujarat to try and tap into the resentment of small businessmen over new national tax GST, which the Congress leader alleges has brought them to their knees.

The opposition party also hopes that the efforts of 24-year-old activist Hardik Patel, who is mobilising his Patel or Patidar community against the BJP, will work in its favour, especially if the young face of the community's agitation for reservation in government jobs and colleges joins hands with the party. Surat has a sizeable Patel population.

Then there is Bharuch in South Gujarat, where senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel is from. Mr Patel, the powerful political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, demonstrated the support he enjoys when he retained his Rajya Sabha seat earlier this year, winning an election that had become a prestige battle for the BJP. All four assembly seats in Bharuch, however, are held by the BJP.

The BJP says it is confident of sweeping the region again, insisting that its core support base of traders is still intact, while it has expanded in other areas. "The traders who are with the BJP know that whatever Narendra Modi does is in the interest of the nation. They accept his decisions. The party and Mr Modi have an open mind. They have announced that whatever problems are there will be removed and they believe in that," Surat BJP president Nitin Thakar told NDTV.
hardik patel pti

Congress also hopes that the efforts of 24-year-old activist Hardik Patel will work in its favour

Traders say the BJP-led Centre's efforts to provide relief to small businesses by tweaking GST rules earlier this month is just not enough. It will just have to do more to draw them back.

Tarachand Kasat, a Surat based trader who is associated with an anti-GST movement says he quit the BJP after the new tax regime was implemented. "This time during elections traders will answer. 'Hamari Bhul Kamal Ka Phul' (voting for the lotus was a mistake)," Mr Kasat told NDTV.

The BJP said he is an opportunist. "Tarachand Kasat is no longer a trader. The BJP gave him a ticket earlier but he lost. And before elections people often jump parties for tickets," said Mr. Thakar Surat.

The Congress is depending on a newly energised social media campaign to take on the BJP's financial and organisational muscle in the area, even as it woos different groups to make a dent into the BJP's support. "First there was demonetisation, then came GST, before that there were atrocities on Patidars, then atrocities on Dalits and farmers. Today no one is with the BJP." said Surat Congress chief Hasmukh Desai.

Young voters have other things on their minds. "Job opportunities, education opportunities. Those are the things that matter," Frenil Mehta, a first time voter, told NDTV.

"We vote for ourselves. We expect our candidate will stand by us. We expect our questions to be heard," Mitwa Lokhandwala, another young voter, said.

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