He visits every temple sporting a bright red tilak on his forehead and at times even a festive turban. Thats Suresh Patel,the Congresss answer to BJPs prime ministerial candidate L K Advani,four-time winner from the Gandhinagar parliamentary constituency. If one were to go by the enthusiasm,zeal and the sheer noise that his supporters are making during campaigning,its hard to believe that he is fighting a losing battle.
Patel is aware of the formidable challenge in trying to wrest Gandhinagar from Advani. But he is far from conceding defeat. I will be the giant killer in these Lok Sabha polls. Advani has won from here only because of the wrong choice of Congress candidates. With the high command conceding to the demand of fielding a local candidate this time,he is in for a tough fight, Patel asserts before continuing with his Jan Sampark Abhiyaan in the Sabarmati area. The wrong choices include former Election Commissioner T N Seshan and retired DGP P K Datta.
As his motorcade enters the Dharmnagar area,people come out of their houses to wave to him. Urmila Verma,a senior citizen of this area,applies a tilak on Patels face. She says,Advani just keeps winning but never bothers to visit the constituency even once. With Patel,at least we know he will be there in our times of need.
Being a sitting MLA from Kalol Assembly segment,which has been added to the Gandhinagar constituency post-delimitation,ensures Patel is a familiar face. But whether the voters of Gandhinagar will choose visibility over the satisfaction of sending a probable PM candidate to Lok Sabha,is anybodys guess.
Meanwhile,it is the Congress which has made temple construction a poll issue here in its fight against Narendra Modis temple demolition spree in Gandhinagar which stopped only after the VHP took up the issue. Patel,whose convoy stops at every temple with him getting down to worship the deities,signals his resolve in the matter as partyworkers echo,Each and every temple demolished by the Modi Government in Gandhinagar will be rebuilt.
Already written off by political pundits and lost between the glamour quotient of Mallika Sarabhai and the national stature of Advani,Patel explains his,some would say,irrational confidence,These polls will witness a consolidation of Patel community and with the Betalis Gam Patel Samaaj (42 Patel villages),comprising around one lakh votes,closely behind me,my claims of winning have a lot of substance.
Patels bravado maybe rooted in reality. Advani had,in a booth workers meeting after filing his nomination papers,cautioned the party workers against overconfidence. His daughter Pratibha,too,is trying to sort out inter-party rivalries that may spoil his chances. However,Pratibha categorically denies any threat to Advanis chances of winning. All these factors of delimitation,development and consolidation of Patel community will not make a slight dent and Baba (Advani) will win again with a record margin.
Amidst these claims and counter-claims,one thing is for sure: though the result looks like a foregone conclusion,no one is going down without a fight.