Soma Ghosh, a housewife living in Vejalpur on the western fringes of Ahmedabad, has voted for a stable and strong government. "We live in a sensitive zone bordered by Juhapura, Asia's largest Muslim ghetto. This area was vandalised during the 2002 riots. We want a strong government that would stop the ghetto from spreading further into Vejalpur," she says.
Ghosh echoes the sentiments of the majority of voters in Vejalpur, a largely cosmopolitan zone in Ahmedabad that is home to a sizable non-Gujarati population. Thus, Mihir Shah, the Congress
candidate there, is going to find his going tough. The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) Kishorsinh Chauhan had won the seat in the 2012 Assembly elections with 113,507 votes. The 2017 polls are likely to see a repeat of that result, with Chauhan having a lead of roughly over 36,000 votes over his competitor after two hours into counting.
There are two broad reasons why the BJP seems to do well in urban constituencies — the public wants a peaceful social fabric sans communal rioting and the preference for infrastructure. Himanshu Vyas, a local of Ahmedabad's Jivraj Park, which is getting a metro-link soon, said, "People do not want policies and the development work to get derailed. The metro rail corridor is passing through this area. A change in the regime throws such projects off the grid for some time."
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In Ahmedabad's walled-city area, which has historically been home to a bulk of the city's Muslim population, the rationale for voting is slightly different. Kamruddin Teli, who works at an automobile repairing workshop in the Mirzapur area of the old city, says, "Imranbhai (Imran Yusufbhai Khedawala) is readily available always whenever we need him. We thus want someone who is accessible in times of need."
BJP's Bhushan Bhatt had won the seat in the 2012 Assembly elections. This time, he is trailing with 37,820 votes as Khedawala now seems to be the clear winner. This is one of the few constituencies where the Muslim electorate is in majority (having around 100,000 Muslim voters) and is a deciding factor.
Last time's independent candidate, Sabir Kabliwala, had split the minority vote and paved the way for Bhatt's victory. This time, however, Kabliwala (who had filed nominations as an independent candidate) withdrew his candidature at the last moment. This is likely to benefit Khedawala. Both Kabliwala and Khedawala belong to the Chhipa community.
Apart from a few such seats here and there, on the whole, the urban dynamics is likely to favour the BJP. Sounding confident, a BJP worker at Shri Kamalam said, "Central Gujarat is going to be our strength. It roughly accounts for 75 seats and the majority are urban seats."
In 2012, BJP had won 16 out of 33 seats in North Gujarat, 24 out of 43 in Central Gujarat and 15 out of 19 in Ahmedabad. Congress, on the other hand, had managed 17 seats each in the North and Central Gujarat regions and four in Ahmedabad. In terms of voter turnout, Sabarkantha had seen the highest at 76.69 per cent among the districts in the second phase of polls in 2012, while Ahmedabad had seen the lowest at 69.16.
The crackers have arrived at the BJP state headquarters at Shri Kamalam in Koba, Gandhinagar. However, celebrations are yet to begin as unlike in 2012, the Congress
is giving a tough fight to the ruling party this time.