Among the thousands of people who were ferried to the venue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public meeting at Chotila on state transport buses, there were some who had also turned up to see Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi when his roadshow passed through the town last month. Shankar Udecha (60), a farmer from Sujangadh village in Surendranagar district, had come to listen to Modi with around 60 men from his village. “Though I am more like a retiree now, I help my sons often in farming. But today, our sarpanch told me that I will have to attend meeting,” said Shankar, who used to vote for the Congress but has changed allegiance to the BJP lately.
Tribhuvan Chavda (38), a farmer from the same village said he skipped work to see Modi. “While we are not getting water from Narmada for irrigation, we are getting it for drinking purpose. This has saved us from drinking salty water,” he said. According to Sujangadh village sarpanch, Bhupat Udecha, many in his village changed their political loyalty after Shyamji Chauhan quit Shiv Sena to join BJP in 2007-08. “I was a Congress supporter but after Shyamjibhai joined BJP, I also become a BJP supporter,” said Bhupat who had come to the rally with his grandson.
But others like 44-year-old Karsan Gamara (44), a farmer-cum-dairy-farmer from Gautamgadh village, are keeping their fingers crossed. “I am a BJP supporter, but Shyamjibhai never visited our village since he became an MLA in 2012. I will first see who is the candidate, and then decide my vote this time,” he said.
Lakshman Gamara (60), who owns 15 bigha and rears cows, is unhappy that milk prices are only around Rs30 per litre. “The remunerative price for cow milk should be Rs 40. So I am not happy with the state of affairs, but I will vote for BJP as Congress doesn’t field good candidates,” he said.
There were others in the crowd who had also lined up along the road in Chotila last month to see Rahul Gandhi. “I had come to see Rahul Gandhi, but I vote for Modi. Kiritsinh Rana (BJP MLA from Limdi) helps us when police intervention is required,” said 50-year-old Jekuben Koradiya from Samatpar village.
For the likes of Ramesh Gabu, a farmer from Bhetsuda village, candidate is more important than the party. “I was a Congress supporter but turned to BJP after Shyamjibhai joined the BJP. So, I shall vote for the BJP this election,” said the 43-year-old farmer. However, Gabu, who too had gone to see Rahul, said “going out to watch the Congress vice-president did not mean voting for the Congress”.