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Water,package for diamond units to remain top poll issues

The smallest district of Gujarat,with an area spread a little over 6,700 square km,Amreli has been a traditional BJP bastion.

Written by Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
April 15, 2009 3:04:59 am

The smallest district of Gujarat,with an area spread a little over 6,700 square km,Amreli has been a traditional BJP bastion. Barring the 2004 Lok Sabha elections,the Congress has had little luck in the region that was once a part of the Gaekwad state,before it was merged with Bombay after Independence.

Delimitation,which meant the inclusion of Gariyadhar and the exclusion of Babra,had hardly changed the demographics of the constituency. Little wonder,the BJP will leave no stone unturned to recapture its stronghold,which was an epicentre of rebellion for the saffron party during the 2007 Assembly elections.

The district has over 13 lakh voters,with a major chunk of Levua Patels,followed by Kolis,Muslims and Dalits.

The economy of Amreli,which shares a boundary with Rajkot,Junagadh and Bhavnagar districts in the Kathivawar peninsula,is driven by agriculture.

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Except for the diamond and cement-chemical plants,the district has little presence of any other major industry. Successive droughts in the late 1990s sent the economy into doldrums,leading to a heavy exodus,and giving fillip to the diamond polishing units.

Interestingly,many of the top diamond traders in Surat,a diamond polishing hub of the world,belong to Amreli. But the district still has subsidiary units of these export houses.

It has remained an epicentre of political activities from the beginning of the formation of Gujarat in 1960.

Jivraj Mehta,the first Chief Minister,was from this city. The top leading BJP heavyweights like incumbent state chief Purshottam Rupala and senior leaders like Dilip Sanghahi,a close aide of Chief Minister Narendra Modi,also belong to this district.

The district also gets its own identity in the field of literature by virtue of being the town of poet Zaverchand Meghani,Kalapi (the erstwhile ruler of Lathi state) and contemporary poets like Ramesh Parekh.

The issues
Drinking water and a relief package for the diamond units will remain two major issues this election for Amreli. Even today,the city gets water supply once a week.

The people now want better coordination between the nagarpalika and the Gujarat State Sewage and Water Supply Board to solve this age-old problem.

In the aftermath of the global meltdown,the district has seen the maximum number of suicides by jobless diamond polishers. As many as 10 workers have committed suicide since December.

The district has over 3,000 diamond polishing units and more than 60,000 workers.

Most of the units are shut since Diwali. Besides,a large chunk of people who had migrated to work in the diamond units in Surat,during the severe drought here,have returned,but are jobless,much like the local workers.

The candidates
Both Congress and the BJP have fielded fresh faces. There are two more things common among Congress candidate Nila Thummar and her BJP counterpart Naran Kachadia. Both are Levua Patels and belong to grassroots politics.

Nila is the wife of sitting Congress MP Virji Thummar,whom the Congress had to drop following allegations of cheating and fraud by the villagers.

The farmers from Amreli,Rajkot,and Junagadh have in various complaints,alleged that the Kisan Vikas trust,an NGO,which is supported by the MP,duped them of Rs 20 lakh,while promising subsidies on the purchase of agricultural equipment.

Virji,who in the last Lok Sabha polls had defeated four-time BJP parliamentarian Dilip Sanghani,now has 23 court cases registered against him.

But Nila,a B.Com LLB graduate,has a political background too. She was an opposition leader in the Amreli district panchayat and a director in the Amreli Nagrik Sahkari Bank,but there was opposition against her candidature from within the party.

Nila is largely understood to be the proxy candidate for her husband.

Former Amreli MLA Paresh Dhanani,who in the 2002 elections — wherein Gujarat voted in the shadow of post-Godhara riots — defeated Rupala,was considered to be the front runner for the ticket.

Kachdia,a former village sarpanch,too has roots in the district organisation,but his poor education background — he has studied only up to Class VI — might go against him among the urban voters.

However,BJP heavyweights Sanghani and Rupala have thrown their weight behind him.

Sanghani,a sitting MLA,has been served with a notice for breach of the Model Code of Conduct after he was accused of exploiting his post of Director in the Amreli Central Bank to announce cuts in interest rates.

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