47-year-old Jijubhai Ishwarbhai Patel has been voting for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for more than two decades, but he will choose Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in this Assembly election.
Standing outside the office of a shipping company at the Hazira Port in Surat, Patel, a 5-feet tall man in a sky blue-coloured T-shirt and a pair of black pants is unhappy with the BJP for “neglecting poor people and locals” in employment opportunities.
“BJP has been ruling the state for such a long time. Lots of applications are pending with panchayat for jobs at the port but state BJP president CR Patil is bringing people from outside the state,” says Patel, who works as a store manager in a shipping company.
“He is bringing people from Maharashtra. He is installing people from the Patidar community in these companies even as locals are searching for jobs,” he fumes in anger.
Full-fledge operations at the Hazira Port began in 2005. It works as a terminal for cargo transport as well as for travel to cities like Bhavnagar.
“If you take the road to Bhavnagar from Surat, it would take you at least six hours. But this port has reduced the time by half to nearly three hours,” says a young man from Amroli, a neighbourhood in the diamond city.
Speaking about his political choice, he says: “I have been voting for the BJP so far but they have not built good roads and hospitals. So, I’ll support AAP in this election because they are building good roads and good hospitals.”
The young man speaks about giving a chance to Arvind Kejriwal, the AAP supremo and chief minister of Delhi.
His relative, Deepak express anger over the rising prices of petrol and cooking gas as he waits for a boat ferry.
Deepak, a resident of Bhavnagar, says, “Congress and BJP have ruled this state but we have not seen how AAP works. So, we must give them a chance to Kejriwal because they are promising good things.”
Vipul Bhayani, an HR manager in a shipping company, agrees that a lot of development has taken place in Gujarat under the BJP rule. “In the last 8 years, Hazira has seen a lot of development.”
But he minces no words about his voting choices. “AAP is giving a tough fight to BJP and they will gradually come to power in the state.”
However, some people believe that no other party can carry out the scale of development done by the successive BJP governments.
“In my entire life, I have never seen such fast-paced development. Before 10 years back, there was nothing in Hazira. Now it is totally transformed. Lots of companies have come up and they provide employment to people,” says Ashok who works as a carpenter at vessels.
He rejects complaints of rising inflation. “When things were cheap, our income was also low.”
His co-worker Rahul is also confident about the BJP’s return to power.