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Ground Report: AAP has gems hidden in Surat’s diamond necklace

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By: Alok Singh | Surat (Gujarat)
Updated: November 25, 2022 17:24
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Surat has been the stronghold of the BJP in Gujarat with people working in the diamond industry backing it through thick and thin. However, the citadel appears to be a bit shaky as the new entrant AAP has made a strong pitch to dent the ruling party’s prospects.

Around 90 per cent of diamonds consumed around the world are polished in nearly 6,000 polishing units in Surat, the financial capital of Gujarat.

Ramesh Kumar, 35, has been a staunch supporter of the BJP, but he is in favour of giving a chance to Arvind Kejriwal, the face of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

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“I like AAP which is relatively new in the politics of Gujarat. Traditional leaders like BJP and Congress have not done much for us. After deadly waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, they did nothing to provide us with some relief,” says Ramesh as he fiddles with his ‘Katora’, a diamond policing tool.

“I like Gopal Bhai Italia (AAP’s Gujarat unit president) because I believe he can bring about a change,” he says, prompting a smile on the face of another co-worker sitting near him.

The elderly man, in his 60s, has been working as a diamond polisher in Surat since the year 1982.

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“AAP is poised to put up a good showing in this election. BJP has been mis-governing the state for decades and I want a change. They did not work honestly for the people of Gujarat,” he says in a firm voice.

Thousands of families are dependent on Surat’s diamond industry, which has an annual turnover of roughly ₹1.6 trillion. The industry has faced a tough time since the war broke out between Russia and Ukraine earlier this year.

“Three months were very difficult for us after the start of the Russia-Ukraine war because of disruption in supplies of raw diamond. Now, the situation has improved but we are not out of woods,” says Ritesh, a diamond merchant.

Though India imports nearly 40 per cent of raw diamonds from Russia – directly and through global markets like Dubai and London.

However, many workers say challenges like Covid-19 and rising inflation are temporary and the BJP under the leadership of PM Modi continues to be the best option for Gujarat.

“I have been voting for BJP for a long time and this election won’t be any different,” says Jayesh Bhai, a resident of Navsari, the home turn of state BJP chief CR Patil.

Ishwar Bhai, another diamond worker, gives credit to the BJP for the growth of the diamond polishing industry in the state. “They have carried out tremendous development in Gujarat.”

Mansukh Bhai, who has been in the profession of diamond polishing for the last 30 years, echoes the sentiments of lakhs of Gujaratis: “I have been giving my vote to Modi Ji. He is the pride of Gujarat. He has done good things.”

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