Vikram Maadam was talking to a group of Muslim women in his office in Khambhalia. It was an informal meeting, if there’s anything informal for a politician who will be contesting an Assembly election in a few days. Over the years, 64-year-old Congress leader Vikram Arjan Maadam has built a reputation of being true to his word. Something that people in Mumbai’s Bandra constituency would say about another Congressman, the late Sunil Dutt.
“We like and respect Vikrambhai because he does not give us empty promises. He is honest about what he can deliver,” a young woman from the group said. Despite such reputation, Maadam says that this is the last election he is contesting. “Elections now are more about money and less about people. The BJP has commercialised elections and I don’t want to be in this game anymore. I would rather do samaj seva,” he told this correspondent.
Khambhalia or Jamkhambalia is a remote village of Devbhoomi Dwarka district and is most known for its ghee. It lies 370 km from Ahmedabad and is suddenly a hot seat this time around as the BJP has fielded Mulu Bera, a former minister, and the third candidate in the race the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) CM face Isudan Gadhvi. There are 3.02 lakh voters in Khambhalia, of whom 52,000 are Ahirs. They are followed by Muslims (41,000), Satvaras (21,000), Rajputs (18,000), Dalits (18,000) and Gadhvis (15,000).
Maadam first won the Assembly elections in 2002 and again in 2017. The Ahir community, categorised as Other Backward Castes (OBC), is the dominant electoral group in the area and only Ahir candidates have been elected from the seat since 1972.
While the BJP is bringing over 18 central ministers for carpet bombing in various constituencies; Maadam has “categorically” told the state and the central Congress leaders to give Khambhalia a miss. “Why should I waste time roaming around ministers when I can give that time to my voters and my people? The AICC in-charge of Gujarat, Raghu Sharmaji, called me to say that they can come to Khambhalia to campaign but I categorically refused. Will they bring votes for me? They can’t. Shaktisinh Gohil holds a different position in the party and we hold a different rapport and therefore when he approached, I welcomed him.”
He was not evasive about several problems in the Congress. He said, “Instead of bringing votes for me, they (Congress leaders) turned them away. I had asked the party to give ticket to a Muslim candidate as he is deserving but the party denied and now, Muslims mujhse thode naaraz hain. I had to do damage control. The Congress and Rahul Gandhi are due to MLAs like us who are winning and securing seats. It is not the other way round.”
While most contestants belittle their competitors, Maadam was all praise for Isudan Gadhvi. “Isudan is a simple man. He is new in politics and the BJP wants to frame him. He is my competitor but on human grounds, I have to defend him. He will cut around 35,000 votes this time around. This will make things tougher for the Congress, not for the BJP. This is a tough fight for me but have I ever got anything easy in life?”
Many Congress leaders in Gujarat have joined the BJP to further their careers. We asked Maadam if he ever thought of joining the BJP. “I don’t want to sell my soul. I got several offers from the BJP and if I join that party, I will get money and a position. But what will happen to my people? I cannot let them suffer. If I had chosen that option, like (his niece) Poonam Maadam did, I would have corporates backing me but that’s gaddari with gthe people who trusted me,” he said. (Poonam Maadam is the daughter of Hemat Maadam and is the BJP MP from Jamnagar. Hemat served as an independent MLA for four consecutive terms during 1972–1990 in Jamkhambhaliya. Poonam contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Jamnagar’s seat as the BJP candidate and won against her uncle Vikram Maadam).
“As a sitting MLA from the Congress, it is never easy to get work done from Gandhinagar, but I have my ways to deal with them (the BJP). I demand what is my legal right as an elected MLA. I am a yodha, I fight.” Maadam said.
Madam is father to three children – a daughter and two sons — and his younger son wants to join politics. The only advice Maadam gives him: “I advise my children to take up a corporate job, travel and have a life. Come to politics only if you want to bow down to the public. Politics demands a lot from you, there is a lot to lose. You make a lot of enemies.”
Come December 8 and we will know the mood in Khambhalia.