Dhoraji (Gujarat): The contest on Dhoraji seat of Gujarat will be a prestige issue for Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader Hardik Patel as one of his key aides, Lalit Vasoya, is contesting from there on Congress' ticket.
Vasoya will be taking on veteran BJP leader and former Lok Sabha MP Harilal Patel on this Patel community-dominated Assembly constituency in Rajkot district.
Dhoraji has traditionally been a stronghold of Congress. Veteran Patel community leader Vitthal Radadiya was elected from the seat for five times on Congress' ticket before he quit the party and joined the BJP.
Radadiya is presently the BJP's Lok Sabha member from Porbandar.
Dhoraji is the only Assembly constituency on which Congress has fielded a leader from Hardik Patel-led PAAS. The Patidars form a sizable chunk of the population in the constituency, but Muslims and Dalits are also present in significant numbers and can together decide the fate of candidates in the fray.
But more than the issues of Patidars and Dalits, it is the issue of development at the local level that has taken the centre-stage, because of an incomplete underground sewage system and poor road infrastructure in Dhoraji town.
The problems faced by farmers, cutting across caste lines, in getting the right minimum support price (MSP) for their produce like cotton and groundnut is also a key issue.
"The local issues are more prominent here than the issues of caste and Patidars. The BJP-ruled nagarpalika could not complete the underground sewage system in time and it is still incomplete," says Vasoya.
The PAAS leader is campaigning aggressively and also focusing on the issue of alleged corruption in the local body and low MSP for farmers in the villages.
"In rural areas, the issues of low MSP for cotton, groundnut and pulses since last three years remain prominent. The farmers are getting less support price than their investment. They (farmers) belong to all castes and therefore, caste does not matter much to them," Vasoya says.
Meanwhile, the BJP's nominee, Harilal Patel, also a member of the Patidar community, is seeking votes on the issue of development.
"Development is our main issue. The state government allocated Rs 110 crore for the development of Dhoraji. The work on underground sewage system is on, half of the work is completed," says Patel, who represented the Porbandar Lok Sabha seat till 2009.