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Fri. Feb 3rd, 2023
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As a stronghold of the ruling party, Rajkot is the key to BJP’s Saurashtra battle. In fact, the Rajkot (West) election has a legacy of sorts as PM Modi made his assembly debut from here in 2001 after replacing fellow BJP member and incumbent Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel. However, this time, the victory for the ruling party may not come as easy. With businesses crushed by the pandemic, inflation running high and the public still accepting the bitter aftertaste of of Goods and Services Tax (GST), paper leaks and poor roads, the ruling party is facing widespread anti-incumbency even in its stronghold.
“Traffic is a big problem in Rajkot. Since there is an overbridge under construction, there’s always traffic on the road,” says Ajubha Gadhvi.
To quell the anti-incumbency sentiments, ruling BJP has changed all four sitting candidates in the 4 constituencies (Rajkot South, Rajkot East, Rajkot West and Rajkot Rural constituency), replacing them with fresh faces and political rookies. In the Gujarat Legislative Assembly Election 2017, BJP’s Vijay Rupani had won against Congress’s Indranil Rajguru by a huge margin of 53,755 votes.
The decision to replace former Chief Minister Vijay Rupani with Rajkot Deputy Mayor Darshita Shah has not gone down well with his supporters.
The city has always been a goldmine of opportunities for people from all over the country, regardless of their socio-economic background. A first-generation businessman who owns a ceramic business, now worth Rs.500 crore, said he could achieve that in Rajkot, despite failing his high-school exams (class 10th) and having no education beyond.
“Rajkot is the lifeline of Saurashtra. People from all around the world come to Rajkot to work. The industries are booming here. There’s also a lot of kindness, the kind that cannot be found anywhere” Dilubha Gadhvi, a local said. Vibrant colours, appetising food, and booming trade are its main features.
The development of Rajkot as an urban settlement has been largely propounded by the foundry units established in the district for industries in sectors like submersible pumps, textile printing, software, and casting. The traditional handicrafts of Rajkot are equally revered. There include silver work, embroidery, and patola weaving. In fact, many of such traditional silver handicrafts, textiles, and other artefacts are housed in the Watson Museum and Library at the Jubilee Gardens of Rajkot.
The community in the city is religiously diverse – Muslims, Hindus, Parsis or Zorastrians and Jains are the main religious groups found here. Banias, the Brahmins, the Bhils and the Patidars are the major castes of people in the city. While Urdu, Gujarati, English and Sindhi are the predominantly spoken languages, one can also spot people speaking Hindi, Tamil, Maratha, Bengali and Malayalam in this multicultural abode of a city.
Traditionally, the BJP and Congress used to be the major contestants in Rajkot but since AAP entered the political fray, the electoral contest in many seats has become a fight between the BJP and AAP. The Aam Aadmi Party shows limited but promising appeal, its promise of free electricity and water, appeals to the lower socio-economic classes. Arvind Kejriwal’s party has also gained support among the young voters for strongly picking up the issue of exam paper leaks that trouble students. But to hail a complete change in regime, AAP will need an overwhelming support within the city which stands amiss.
“Modi may stand with the poor, but he’s in Delhi” says Pravinbha Gadhvi, a driver. Under the wrath of inflation, the business has slowed down for him, and he’s unable to send his kids to school. “Our electricity bill itself is Rs.5000 for two months, but that’s just daily change for politicians and their party workers,” he adds. He refused to disclose the party name, but said he has high hopes from a certain party that has promised free electricity and even free-of-charge education for children. “Poor people like me have no money to pay their children’s school fees, to pay for petrol if we want to send them to school on bike, to pay the auto driver if we chose to send them in an auto instead.”
Speaking about the cultural phenomenon of Rajkot, Pravinbha Gadhvi, a driver, says, “you won’t find a single soul outside between 2 pm to 4 pm because people love to rest in the afternoon. In fact, even some local newspapers arrive in the afternoon, which are read with afternoon tea.”
Despite this love for rest and leisure, these “rangeela” (by rangeela he meant as someone who is zestful and full of life. It is not to be mistaken with a man of colourful character) businessmen successfully lead several leading businesses of India. Dilubha Gadhvi says there is unemployment in India, but that doesn’t hold true for Rajkot. Anyone who isn’t lazy can find some type of work here.”

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