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Pride at stake for BJP and Congress candidates

Junagadh-an erstwhile princely state - is known for its Nawabs,besides being home to the last surviving group of the Asiatic Lion.

Written by Express News Service | Junagadh |
April 14, 2009 4:53:44 am

Junagadh-an erstwhile princely state – is known for its Nawabs,besides being home to the last surviving group of the Asiatic Lion. It has a varied geography,which includes Girnar mountains,forest areas,plains and also a chunk of the Saurashtra coast.

The famous Somnath Temple is located here on the seashore as also other temples and Jain religious places in the Girnar mountains. Mountains,forests,plains and beautiful sea-shore are among the hot-spots that have placed the district on the tourism map of the country.

The district also houses factories like Ambuja Cements,Siddhi Cements as well as chemical industries like Gujarat Heavy Chemicals Limited (GHCL) and Indian Rayon. Veraval,one of Gujarat’s largest fishing ports,is another important industry,known for generating annual revenue to the tune of Rs 500 crore.

Sugar factories also abound in the region in addition to ground-nut oil processing units.

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Politically,while the Leuva Patels and Koli Patels dominate the Lok Sabha seat,Muslims,Ahirs,Karadiya and Dalits also form a sizeable chunk of the total population here,so much so that both the Congress and the BJP have fielded a non-Leuva Patel candidate this time.

Although they are not important politically,Siddis,with their ancestral roots in Africa,reside in the Talala area.

The issues
Though Junagadh is a tourist’s delight,lack of tourism development remains one of the key issues. The despite the presence of Somnath temple and Sasan Gir,Junagadh remains bereft of proper infrastructure facilities,including roads,hotels and quality hospitals. While it figures on the national railway network,it remains inadequately connected.

It was only recently that a local train service started after an agitation.

Yet another area that witnesses frequent skirmishes is Gir,wherein farmers and foresters can be often seen locking horns over disputed territorial rights and trespassing issues.

Though Gir forests have been declared a reserved sanctuary,it is also an important religious place.

This results in frequent agitations by sadhus,seeking better access to the area. Also,fishermen,like in the neighbouring constituency of Porbandar,seek better storage facilities.

The candidates
Both the BJP and the Congress have fielded non-Leuva Patel candidates. While the Congress repeated sitting MP Jasu Barad,an Ahir,in spite of local opposition from the party ranks,the BJP reserved the decision of its candidate till the last minute.

The saffron party announced its candidate Dinu Solanki,Kodinar MLA,days after declaring the list of candidates for the rest of 25 seats.

Barad takes the credit for getting back Junagadh to the Congress fold,which was won for four consecutive times by BJP’s Bhavna Chikhaliya,in 2004. Post-delimitation,the seat except for Talala remains dominated by the BJP,with even the party rebels failing to make any dent in the 2007 Assembly polls. Barad is considered an aggressive leader who enjoys great influence in his hometown Talala and surrounding areas.

The constituency is likely to witness a fierce election battle,as winning the seat has become a matter of pride for both Barad and Solanki,and is expected to play an important role in determining their political career.

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