Surat nu jaman: Diamond City to dish out some delectable contests | Gujarat Election News – Times of India


Surti undhiyu, the lip-smacking winter concoction of green vegetables, has never been complete without the ‘paapdi (flat beans)’, which once grew in abundance in the lush fields of Katargam. However, over the past 10 years, the fields have been replaced by flashy residential and commercial buildings; residents are seen flaunting their luxury cars, and this once sleepy hamlet has transformed into a thriving business centre of Surat also known as India’s Diamond City.
Katargam is the hub of diamond cutting and polishing with over 4,000 artisans working in one shift in small and big units, employing lakhs of skilled hands. It also has a GIDC where lakhs of metres of fabrics are woven every day. And, this poll season, some delectable electoral battles are cooking up in this Patidar-dominated area which had witnessed massive unrest with crowds setting ablaze buses and other government property during the 2015 Hardik Patel-led quota stir.
Political equations changed quickly, and BJP bastion, Surat, became the cradle of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Gujarat. In 2021 civic poll, the AAP made a stunning debut, winning 27 out of the 120 seats in the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) while the Congress drew a blank.
On December 1, Surat city, with a total of 12 assembly segments including 2 rurban seats, is expected to witness some of the most gripping battles this election. Besides the community factors and an aggressive Kejriwal outfit, it’s the home to the state presidents of two parties: the BJP’s C R Paatil and the AAP’s Gopal Italia, the plucky Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader and former Hardik aide. Paatil holds a huge sway over migrants including Maharashtrians in Limbayat.
The AAP has fielded Italia from Katargam against sitting BJP minister Vinod Moradiya who won his maiden election in 2017.
Italia has become the favourite whipping boy of the BJP after several videos of his unsavoury remarks, including those against PM Modi and his mother, surfaced on social media. Italia dismissed them as a conspiracy but gave enough ammunition to Modi and other star campaigners whohave been fervently asking people to vanquish elements using disparaging language to ‘defame’ Gujarat and its people.
“I am one of the poorest candidates but have the highest number of FIRs against me. These cases were filed against me for participating in various public movements,”33-year-old Italia tells people in his campaign.
While Moradiya, a three-time councillor, is banking on the BJP symbol and government works, Congress’s Kalpesh Variya who hails from the Prajapati community, claims to have a better connect with people due to his social activities. The Prajapatis are natives of Saurashtra who are engaged in the diamond as well as the textile industry.
The young turks of the BJP have seen a meteoric rise in their political fortunes with Majura MLA Harsh Sanghavi being one of the most prominent faces. Sanghavi, who has been vociferous against ‘love jihad’, was instrumental in the roaring success of PM Modi’s roadshows and rallies in the city.
Given the sheer number of Saurashtra natives (nearly 20 lakh), who are registered voters in Surat and the AAP’s aggressive posturing, contests in Varachha Road, Surat North, Karanj, Kamrej, and Olpad are expected to spice up the hustings.
Expecting a tough fight, all three parties are leaving no stone unturned while campaigning and reaching out to people. Tempers are also fraying. Twice recently, workers of the BJP and the AAP came face to face in Sarthana and Limbayat, forcing the police to rush to the spots and control the situation.
Kathiriya is expected to give a tough fight to ex-minister Kumar Kanani in Varachha, which had also been scorched during the quota agitation, by harping on anti-incumbency. He also has community backing.
Apart from Italia and Kathiriya, the AAP has fielded another young face in PAAS activist, Dharmik Malaviya, from the rurban Olpad seat against BJP ministerMukesh Patel and Darshan Naik of the Congress.
The city of flyovers, often called the distant cousin of Mumbai, has consistently achieved the top rank in the Centre’s Swachhata surveys. But youth from the Patidar areas launched social media campaigns to demand a government college, something that was approved by the state government recently but remains on paper.
“The movement has been going on for the past seven years and gained momentum in 2018 but we are yet to get a college,” said Ketan Sojitra, a social worker.
Importantly, Surat won accolades for the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially the second wave which saw a massive exodus of migrants from the city. The Patidars along with other communities set an example by converting their community halls into Covid care isolation centres, which provided succour to thousands and reduced the burden on government hospitals.
Another issue that is expected to play on the minds of people, especially in the Varachha, Surat North, Karanj, Katargam, and Olpad seats, is the horrific Takshashila Arcade fire that snuffed out the lives of 22 students on May 24, 2019.
“The actual corrupt officials of the Surat Municipal Corporation, Dakshin Gujarat Vij Company Ltd and the fire department, who allowed the illegal construction, were never arrested. Those arrested are out on bail and the government is not interested in running the case in the fast-track court,” said Jaysukh Gajera, father of one of the deceased students.
In Olpad and Kamrej constituencies, several villages have been included in the city limits, but the basic civic amenities like water supply and drainage are far from adequate.
The villages that were included in city limits a few years ago are yet to get basic civic facilities like water supply and drainage. In some places, sewage water still flows through open rainwater trenches. The poor infrastructure is also hampering MSME development in these areas.





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