A labyrinth of roads, far fetched villages and scorching summer heat fails to tame the enthusiasm and confidence level of Dinesh Parmar, the Congress candidate for Kutch Lok Sabha constituency.
He travelled around 400 kms on Sunday, the pan ultimate day of campaigning, to do canvassing at seven places in one of the largest districts of the country in terms of geographical area. Kutch accounts for roughly 24 per cent of total geographical area of Gujarat.
He began his day by addressing a meeting in Kotda-Chakar village in Bhuj taluka. He lashed out at state government for making revenue laws not favourable to farmers. He also alleged that medical facilities at government hospitals in the state had become chargeable under the rule of Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP government.
He said that he had helped Muslims of Maliya taluka in Morbi district as they would get a stop of Ala Hazrat Express at Maliya. Thus, the Muslims of Maliya got a direct train to Ajmer, a Muslim religious place in Rajasthan.
The village is dominated by Kadva Patels, the land owners and traditionally sympathisers of the BJP. However, village sarpanch Rasilaben Bagat’s husband Narsinh said that the community was equally divided as Congress supporters and BJP followers. From Kotda, he drove 36 km west to port town of Mundra to attend a mass marriage ceremony of Muslims.
Driving in his SUV with a handful of supporters, a cheerful Dr Parmar covered the distance of around 100 km non-stop to reach Nakhtrana where he joined senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil for an election meeting.
“Dalits, Kolis and Paradhis were earlier recognised as scheduled tribes but the state government has robbed them of this status. I assure that this status will be restored when I am elected,” he tells the gathering of supporters.
He drives to Trikam Saheb Ddham, a place of worship of Dalits in nearby Kotda village. The local Dalit community organisation has planned a mass marriage ceremony for 70 couples. During his conversation with the community he said, “I don’t have trust in Rama. I rather believe in Bhim (Dr BR Ambedkar), evoking smiles from the small gathering.
While he is in conversation with the Dalits, Mahesh Bhanushali, a Congress MLA from Ghatkopar in Mumbai, but a native of Tera village in Abdasa taluka called him up saying he would have to go to Tera to participate in local annual fare.
Parmar said he was 36 km away and had to reach Anjar for a rally. But Bhanushali persisted and the doctor had to relent.
“Parmar is a good friend. We had lobbied for his ticket with Gurudas Kamat,” Bhanushali told The Indian Express. The MLA threw currency notes on those playing dhols and Parmar shook hands with village community leaders.
“The atmosphere has turned in favour of Congress, especially after Shaktisinh Gohil was fielded for the Abdasa Assembly bypolls. Though I was once a hardcore BJP supporter, now I’m fed up with autocratic style of functioning of their leaders and their habit of telling lies,” Madhu Jadeja, a Kshatriya leader of Tera says while receiving Parmar at his residence for a glass of lemon juice. Parmar drives more than 130 km on the trot to reach Anjar.
“You all know distances in Kutch are long. But your hearts are quite close to me. So pardon the delay in reaching here,” he says a gathering.
He took a dig at NDA government for releasing terrorists in exchange of Indian Airlines passengers held hostage in Kandahar. “Congress has a strong foreign policy agenda and would chop Hafeez Saed to pieces if required,” he tells the crowd.
Parmar is originally from Jamnagar. But he tells voters he had bought a house in Bhuj and would open his offices in Bhuj and Gandhidham after his victory in April 30 polls.
The Kutch seat is dominated by Patels, Muslims and Kshatriyas. Presently, Poonam Jat of the BJP is sitting MP. But the BJP has denied her a re-nomination and has fielded Vinod Chavda instead for this Parliamentary seat reserved for Scheduled Caste.