Cong's Geniben Thakor Emerges Strong Contender Against BJP's Rekha Chaudhary In Gujarat's Vav - Vibes Of India

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Cong’s Geniben Thakor Emerges Strong Contender Against BJP’s Rekha Chaudhary In Gujarat’s Vav

| Updated: May 1, 2024 12:00

A two-time time legislator from Gujarat’s Vav, Congress’s Geniben Thakor is fighting her first Lok Sabha election against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Rekha Chaudhary, granddaughter of Galbabhai Chaudhary, who founded the Banas Dairy – the biggest dairy of Gujarat that procures milk from at least 450,000 farmers every day.

The 48-year-old rose to prominence in the state during the 2017 assembly elections, when she clinched victory over Banas Dairy chairman and BJP stalwart Shankar Chaudhary in Vav constituency. She managed to retain the seat in 2022, despite her party’s overall dismal performance in the state where it secured 17 out of 182 seats. Chaudhary, meanwhile, was elected from Tharad seat and was even appointed speaker of Gujarat assembly.

“We have seen for the last 30 years that our sons and daughters who work hard to score in their exams suffer due to paper leaks. We need to fight these elections against those who are behind such acts,” Thakor said, referring to instances wherein question papers of public service exams have been leaked in the state, as she addresses a huge gathering consisting of Thakors and Dalits in Tharad.

“The BJP wants to change the Constitution if they are voted back to power. They want to do away with reservations. This election is a fight to save the Constitution,” she adds.

There are close to 1,900,000 voters in Banaskantha constituency. The area boasts the highest number of Thakor voters, totaling approximately 450,000. The Patidars, which include the Leuva, Kadva and Chaudhary Patidars, comprise around 380,000 of the electorate.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s Parbatbhai Patel won the seat by defeating Congress’s Parthi Bhatol by 368,000 votes. The party had won the seat in the 2014 elections as well. Besides, the state has also been a BJP stronghold since 2012.

While the BJP has a strong presence in the urban areas of Banaskantha, including Palanpur and Deesa, the Congress has made significant inroads in areas like Tharad, Deodhar, Danta and Dhanera. PM Modi is scheduled to address a public meeting in Deesa of Banaskantha on May 1.

Accompanied by Dalit leader and Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani, a star campaigner for the Congress in the state, Thakor raises various issues, including instances of exam paper leaks and highlights her party’s poll promises such as providing 50% reservation for women in all central government jobs, financial assistance to poor women and apprenticeship for youth having either a diploma or a degree.

The BJP, said party leaders familiar with the matter, is trying to frame the contest as one between Thakors and the other castes. A consolidated vote by Patidars – of whom Chaudharys are a sub-caste – and other non-Thakor caste groups will give the party it’s best chance of clinching the seat, where Thakors largely vote as a single front.

The Thakors outnumber the Patidars, and Geniben emerges as a natural leader among the contenders. With the backing of the BJP’s strong Sangathan, it’s shaping up to be a close contest.

Meanwhile, Rekha Chaudhary, an engineering professor, is making her poll debut as a BJP candidate from this seat. While campaigning, she highlights the achievements of the BJP-led Centre, such as the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, and also says that her candidature has the support of the Prime Minister.

She also addresses the issue of water scarcity in the region, proposing the construction of a check dam and laying of a 77 kilometre-long pipeline from Kasra to Danitwada.

“I want to get employment for the youth of our region. I want to bring projects like setting up of semiconductor factories and green hydrogen in our constituency,” she says.

Sixty-seven-year-old Vallabh Parmar, a car dealer in Tharad, says there could be a close fight between the Thakors and Chaudharys.

“There is development in the region. But then there are also issues of water. Geniben hails from a poor family and her track record is very good. If people can give her money for crowd funding, they may vote for her,” said villagers of Anapur Chota village.

“Over the past decade, the BJP has undertaken commendable efforts in this area, from infrastructure development to the implementation of numerous beneficial schemes, although the issue of joblessness persists in our region. Gujarat stands as a bastion for the BJP, and the prospect of losing even a single seat here seems inconceivable. If such an outcome were to occur, it could signal a huge shift in the political dynamics of the country,” says Sailesh Darji of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Party and a resident of Jamda village.

Meanwhile, the Congress candidate has started a crowdfunding initiative to fuel her political campaign.

The Congress candidate has circulated a QR code, asking constituents to extend her financial support – ₹11 or more.

To be sure, this isn’t the first time that candidates in the state have turned to crowdfunding their election campaign.

Voting in Gujarat for 24 out of 25 Lok Sabha seats will be held in a single phase in Gujarat on May 7. BJP candidate from Surat, Mukesh Dalal, was recently elected unopposed.

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