Large close-knit communities want to continue with the same party at the Centre as well as the state
For 19-year old Srishti Dhamani, who voted for the first time in these Lok Sabha Elections from Surat, family wishes were supreme. "We have been voting for the same party for the past 15 years. How can I make a different choice?" she asks.
It comes as no surprise that Darshana Jardosh has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Surat since 2009 and won with a margin of more than 5 lakh votes in the 2014 elections.
A BJP bastion since 1989, Surat has a majority population engaged in the textile and diamond trade. To gain mass appeal among the locals, the Congress decided to field a member of the diamond trading community – Ashok Adhewada – from the Surat constituency.
"Darshana-ben (sister) is a local and we have known her for almost 10 years. She understands local issues and also interacts regularly with us traders. We do not even know her opponent well, leave alone him interacting with us. How can we trust him," said Shrenik Jain, a local textile merchant.
Adhewada's candidature was also fraught with stiff opposition from insiders. A Congress party worker said that they were against bringing a new name for these elections.
"Anti-incumbency is not a factor that will work in places like Surat, where communities and business families have been traditionally voting for the same party. We had expressed our concerns to the party high command as well, but they did not pay any heed," said a local Congress youth.
With good road infrastructure and cheaper real estate attracting more diamond and textile merchants to Surat from Mumbai and nearby areas, these individuals go solely by the track record.
An Oxford Economics report had stated in December that Surat will be the world's fastest growing city during the 2019-2035 period.
"The Surat metro project has been approved. Multi-modal transport will also follow and this will help our workers travelling from nearby villages. When a party has delivered, why will we go elsewhere? There is a high possibility that a new leader will try to scrap all old possibilities and we don't want that to happen," said Akhilesh Pankaj Patel, a diamond trader from Surat.
An April 2019 report of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has placed Surat on the third rank among the country's smart cities. The ruling BJP in the state aspires for the top rank within the next few years.
With Surat in the midst of the poll heat in 2019, change is probably not the only constant for voters in the region.
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