Come election results time and the public sentiments soar sky high. Businesses big and small are rooting for their choice of candidates and a glimpse of it is seen in Surat’s Varachha constituency. Salons are offering free beard trimming if the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Alpesh Kathiriya wins. Supporters of Khatiriya — who calls himself ‘Babbar Sher of Surat’ — are also promising free vehicle service, tea and discounts on laboratory, and dental checkups.
Surat’s Varachha is one of the hot seats in this election. Kishore Kanani is contesting from the BJP ticket, Praful Togadia from the Congress, and prominent Patidar leader Kathiriya from the AAP.
Among his supporters, Shiv Automobile is offering free vehicle service, Jay Gopal snacks has promised free pakoras for a day, Madhuli Tea Centre will be giving tea free of costs, Advance Care Pathology Laboratory is offering 50% discounts on checkups, Cake King is offering free cakes, Sayani Dental Care Centre is offering free checkups for a month, The Blow Out salon is offering free beard trimming – as long as their Babbar Sher wins.
And this is not without a reason. The AAP is fighting a spirited fight and Varachha could be one of the seats it could end up winning. Varachha is among the 12 Assembly seats in Surat city. There are four other seats in the district. In 2017, the BJP won 15 while Congress bagged just one. Five years later, Congress seems to be out of the race as a principal challenger to the BJP on seats such as Varachha, Katargam, Karanj, Kamrej and Olpad.
Kathiriya is a convener of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), an outfit that had organised state-wide agitation demanding Other Backward Class (OBC) status and reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to the youth from the Patidar community. He was a part of the 2015 agitation for a reservation to the community in Gujarat. He was formerly associated with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Kathiriya is a friend of BJP leader Hardik Patel –contesting from the Viramgam constituency.