The people of Gujarat expect much from Arvind Kejriwal and that will propel the Aam Aadmi Party to victory in the state, party leader Gopal Italia told NDTV today. The chief of AAP's state unit, Mr Italia is focussing on the Surat region -- a BJP-dominated zone where diamond merchants and the Patidar community hold sway.
In 2017, the BJP had posted its worst performance in Gujarat, which it has been ruling since 1995. The party won 98 seats, just 21 more than the Congress.
In that victory, the districts of south Gujarat -- with Surat at its centre -- had significant contribution. The party had won 14 of the 16 assembly seats in the Surat region, two seats from tribal-dominated areas had gone to the Congress.
This time, AAP, which is going all out in the battle for Gujarat, has placed special focus on south Gujarat. Mr Italia, the state party chief, is contesting from Surat.
AAP is already seen to have a strong presence in the BJP-dominated diamond hub, with support from the politically significant Patidar community. A triangular contest is expected on six seats in the region.
Canvassing door-to-door, Mr Italia, in an exclusive interview, told NDTV that he is confident that the people of Gujarat will opt for AAP this time.
Asked why he thought Surat will have a change of heart, Mr Italia said, "It is obvious that a party will have some expectation during election and will seek votes door-to-door".
"But this time, it is the people who have expectation from Arvind Kejriwal. We have confidence in that expectation. The people will vote from the broom (AAP election symbol) this time," he added.
In 2017, AAP had failed to open its account in its first assay in the state. This time, with Delhi and Punjab under its belt, AAP has pitched itself as the chief contender against the BJP, pushing the Congress to the sidelines.
Asked about allegations that AAP will only eat into Congress votes, giving an edge to the BJP, Mr Italia said the Congress is "finished" in Gujarat.
"After the last election, some Congress leaders went to the BJP. This time, some shifted to the BJP ahead of the election. Still others will change camp after the election. The Congress can do nothing, so why would anyone vote for it?" he said.
Gujarat is one of a handful of states where the Congress has considerable ground-level support. In 2017, the party had witnessed a surge, winning 77 of the state's 181 seats. It had upped the tally from the 60 seats it won in 2012.
Elections are due in the state on December 1 and 5. The counting of votes will be held on December 8.