Election in Dhoraji, situated in Rajkot district of Gujarat, will be a prestige issue for Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel as one of his key aides, Lalit Vasoya, is contesting from there on Congress' ticket. Mr Vasoya will be contesting against BJP leader and former Lok Sabha MP Harilal Patel on this Patel community-dominated assembly constituency.
Traditionally, Dhoraji has been a stronghold of Congress. Vitthal Radadiya, a veteran leader from the Patel community, was elected five times from this seat on Congress' ticket before he quit the party and joined the BJP. Mr Radadiya is presently the BJP's Lok Sabha member from Porbandar.
Dhoraji constituency has a sizable chunk of population of Patidars. Muslims and Dalits are also present in large numbers. This is the only seat from where the Congress has fielded a leader from Hardik Patel-led PAAS.
Local development has taken centre stage in the constituency as an incomplete underground sewage system and poor road infrastructure in Dhoraji town is the top concerning issue of the people. Apart from this, getting the right minimum support price (MSP) for farmers is the key issue.
The local issues are more prominent here than the issues of caste and Patidars. The BJP-ruled nagarpalika could not complete the underground sewage system in time and it is still incomplete," Mr Vasoya was quoted as saying to news agency PTI.
"In rural areas, the issues of low MSP for cotton, groundnut and pulses since last three years remain prominent. The farmers are getting less support price than their investment. They (farmers) belong to all castes and therefore, caste does not matter much to them," Mr Vasoya added.
While the PAAS leader is campaigning aggressively BJP nominee, Harilal Patel, member of the Patidar community, is also leaving no stone unturned.
Mr Patel said that the state government is making purchases by offering the cultivators Rs
100 over the MSP of cotton. He said that the farmers understand that the state government is working for their benefit by giving them Rs 100 per 20 kg over and above the MSP.
"The educated Patidars understand that the BJP government has done a lot for them. They understand that the government did its best to address their demands and so, I do not see a reason why they should not support the BJP," he said when asked if the people will vote for BJP after Mr Vasoya's candidature.
Mr Vasoya, confident of winning Dhoraji, said that since BJP candidate does not belong from the constituency, it goes against him as for the voters that's a prime concern.
The PAAS leader, who is contesting for the first time, is banking on the prominence he gained while fighting for the Patidar community over reservation demand. The Congress had won the election in Dhoraji in 2012.
As many as 17 candidates are in fray on the seat, with some prominent nominees being of Aam Aadmi Party, Janta Dal (U), Bahujan Samaj Party, former Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela's Jan Vikalp front and six independents.
(With Inputs from PTI)