Prime Minister Narendra Modi might be listing demonetisation and GST as his government's two major achievements which changed the course of the Indian economy but the people of Maninagar, the constituency he represented as Chief Minister, do not seem to be all that enthusiastic about it as they share their woes on how the two decisions disrupted their business activity and dampened consumer demand.
But many of them still believe that the BJP would sail through in the coming election as voters in this assembly segment of Ahmedabad district have an emotional attachment with the Prime Minister. They also feel that after his elevation, the state has suffered a lot in terms of administration in his absence.
People of different age groups and different sections of society can be seen walking and jogging in the early morning hours at Kankaria lake in the heart of Maninagar.
Naresh Bhai in his 70s, a retired official from the state electricity department, was returning home after his morning walk. When asked about the election scenario, he said, “It’s a cake walk for BJP. This seat has been the traditional seat of BJP and that too represented by Modiji.” But, he said, after becoming Prime Minister, he has been taking decisions unilaterally which were against the will of the people.
“He is taking decisions in national interest but not taking people into confidence before taking decisions. He took the decision to ban the currency notes but he did not think of difficulties people suffered. Now, he has implemented GST, which has affected business a lot. After protests he has been taking remedial measures. He should have taken these decisions after taking people into confidence,” he said.
Hitesh Bhai Panchal, 46, who runs a printing press in the Khokhra circle, called himself a victim of GST.
“I had appointed a part-time accountant for maintaining the accounts and was paying Rs 6000 per month after implementation of GST now I am bound to keep a full time accountant by paying Rs 12,000 per month. This extra amount of Rs 6000, which I am paying to my accountant used to be my savings earlier,” he said.
Naresh Bhai and Panchal said that they have not yet decided whom to vote for and would take a call later depending on the emerging situation.
However, a group of five people, who were together taking sips of tea after their morning walk, were clear about whom they would vote for.
“Beshak dhandhe par maar padi hai isme koi shak nahi lekin Modiji ke liye sab kuch sahan kar lenge (No doubt our business has been affected but we are ready to tolerate everything for Modiji).
“He is our leader and has emotional connect with the people here. It was Modiji who saved us from the atrocities of a community during Congress regime. Today we feel secure due to him only,” said Lalji Bhai Sinh.
Echoing similar views, Sagar Parikh, a businessman, said, “If BJP gets defeated then the situation in the state will be back as it was in the 90s. The state has suffered a lot after Modiji went to national politics to become Prime Minister.”
“Prashashan me dhilai aa gayi hai, wo sabko tight karke rakhte the (There has been laxity on the part of the administration. He used to keep them working),” he said despite accepting that demonetisation and GST have adversely affected their daily earnings.
Mahesh Bhai Chouhan, a taxi driver, said that despite all the problems people here will vote in the BJP’s favour.
“Poore Gujarat me BJP jite na jite par yahan se toh jitegi hi (BJP may or may not win in the entire state but will easily sail through here),” he said.
Naresh Bhai Dantani, a daily wage worker (mason) in the railway station area of Maninagar, was eagerly looking to get some work and looked disappointed as his wait was getting longer.
“We are the real victims of demonetisation and GST. During the days of demonetisation we rarely got any work. I went back to my home village Ghatlodiya and focused on farming for a few months. Now, they have brought GST. The shopkeeper adds the GST rate to products like cement, plaster and other material and also gets his share but when we use these materials in construction we do not get our share,” Dantani said adding that his vote would definitely go to the “hand” — the Congress election symbol.
Modi represented this seat in the state assembly from 2002 to 2014 until he became Prime Minister. After he resigned Modi handed over the baton to Suresh Patel, who is representing the seat by winning the by-poll. The BJP has been winning this seat since 1990.
The Congress has fielded 34-year-old Shweta Brahmabhatt, who returned to India from the UK after completing her Masters from a business school in Westminster. She is an IIM pass out in political leadership.
Belonging to a Congress family, she is banking on the image of father Narendra Brahmabhatt, and focusing on wooing over 60 per cent young voters of the constituency.
Maninagar will go to the polls on December 14 in the second phase of the two-phase elections. (IANS)