The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fielded party president Gopal Italia from Katargam. The seat is a hot favourite among the BJP leaders and it is believed that it could lead to an infighting within the BJP, which may benefit the AAP. The Congress is not a major force here.
The BJP has been winning the Katargam seat since 2012. However, AAP has been able to make some inroads during the municipal elections. The incumbent, Vinod Moradiya, is from the Patidar community and is the minister of state for urban development and urban housing. The BJP is yet to announce the candidate for the seat.
The Prajapatis are another dominant community in this constituency. The Congress will field Kalpesh Variya, who belongs to the Prajapati community. The Prajapatis are categorised as Other Backward Classes (OBCs). There are 90,000 registered Patidar voters while the Prajapati community has 75,000 voters.
In the 2017 elections, there were 2.77 lakh registered voters in the constituency. The Congress had fielded a Patidar — Jignesh Jivani — who lost to BJP’s Moradiya. In 2012, Nanu Vanani, also a Patidar, had won the seat for the BJP.
The AAP is eying a big opportunity in Katargam this time around. In last year’s civic body polls, the Surat Municipal Corporation’s wards 7 and 8 and some parts of ward 6 are part of the Assembly constituency. In the civic body polls last year, the AAP saw a tremendous surge in its favour, especially in these wards.
The AAP’s chances get a boost due to alleged divisions in the BJP. As many as 23 leaders expressed the intention of contesting the Katargam seat. Katargam is among the 29 seats that the AAP contested in 2017 and came third with 2.29% vote share.
Among the BJP contenders is Narendra Nandlal Pandav, the son of BJP leader and a prominent Prajapati community leader Nandlal Pandav. BJP’s Surat city president Niranjan Janjmera also belongs to the Prajapati community. He has not yet openly staked his claim for the seat.
While the Patidars are a dominant lot, the Prajapati community has mobilised itself this year to demand a political partnership by organising several. It will be interesting to watch the outcome of the result for this constituency. The Congress has already announced its candidate from the Prajapati community. In the last two elections, the Congress had a vote share of around 25%. The Patidar votes might get divided between AAP and BJP, whereas the Prajapatis, keen on having political importance, are likely to vote for the candidate from their community, irrespective of party affiliation.