December 12, 2017 7:35:53 pm
Time seems to have come to a standstill in some tribal areas of Gujarat. More than three years after Narendra Modi became the country’s prime minister, for a section of people in Gujarat, he is still the chief minister. In the interior areas of Chhota Udaipur district, dominated by Scheduled Tribes such as the Rathwas, voters said that when it came to politics, they knew of only three factors — Modi, Modi’s party and the Congress.
Few referred to the BJP by name, calling it Modi’s party. And when prodded about the Congress, the only name they could readily recall was that of Indira Gandhi.
“My forefathers have always voted for the Congress but now people in surrounding villages also vote for a candidate from Modi-Sa’ab’s party,” 50-year-old Ramsinh Rathwa said.
Ramsinh, who was in Chhota Udaipur with three other men from his village Kanda, identified the lotus as the symbol of “Modi’s party”, but was less familiar with the BJP. The four men, all farmers, said irrespective of who won from their constituency, “Modi will again become the chief minister of Gujarat”.
In Jogpura, another village in the Chhota Udaipur constituency, voter Dilip Rathwa said the fight was between the “Congress and Modi”. He said his village usually votes for the same candidate and added that while Modi was popular, local Congress leaders visited their homes on occasions such as marriages.
“Local Congress candidate Mohansinh Rathwa in the last elections had visited our village and had also sought blessing from my father by touching his feet,” he said.
School teacher Sumanben Parmar of Pavi Jetpur said while Modi was popular, people in the region, where Muslims are the second largest community, were not greatly aware of the identity of other politicians.
The tribal-Muslim combination benefits the Congress in the three ST reserved seats of Chhota Udaipur district, which borders BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh on two sides and shares its water borders with another BJP-ruled state, Maharashtra.
But local BJP leaders believed Modi’s personality always helped pull votes for the party.
“The fight is between local Congress candidates and Modi’s popularity,” agreed Ramesh Patel, a local Congress worker in Pavi Jetpur.
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