Valsad (Gujarat), April 14: Neither high-profile Vadodara, nor temple city Varanasi. If history is anything to go by, it’s another ‘V’ that holds the “key” to Narendra Modi’s ambitions for Delhi.
For the past 37 years, Valsad, a tribal-dominated reserved seat in south Gujarat, has been the unerring political tea leaf on which party or alliance would form the government at the Centre. From Morarji Desai in 1977 to Manmohan Singh in 2009, the party or coalition that fielded the winning candidate in this constituency has gone on to wrest power at the Centre.
“Don’t know why, but it has been like that,” says sitting MP Kishan Patel. No prizes for guessing which party he is from.
In Gujarat, stumped commentators threw up their hands when asked about the trend. Some said it was “incredible”, others said it was just a “coincidence”, and no one really had an explanation. But the results have reinforced the popular perception that whichever party wins the April 30 vote in Valsad would form the next government.
Here’s how it has panned out over the years.
In 1977, when Janata front candidate Nanubhai Patel won from Valsad (then Bulsar), a non-Congress government, headed by Morarji, came to power in Delhi.
Three years later, it was the turn of Congress nominee Uttam Patel and Indira Gandhi returned to power. Patel got re-elected in 1984 and Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister.
In 1989, Uttam Patel lost to Janata Dal candidate Arjun Patel and V.P. Singh seized power at the Centre.
Two years later, in 1991, Uttam Patel wrested back the seat. This time, it was P.V. Narasimha Rao who became Prime Minister.
Valsad voted in a BJP candidate, Manibhai Chaudhary, in the next three elections — 1996, 1998 and 1999 — and Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed the government every time, though his first two terms were brief: 13 days and 13 months.
In 2004, when the Congress returned to power with Manmohan Singh at the helm, Valsad elected a Congress nominee, Kishan Patel, who won a second term in 2009.
Now, all eyes are on BJP candidate K.C. Patel and whether he can deliver Valsad for Modi, who is contesting from both Vadodara and Varanasi.
Sonal Solanki, the president of Valsad Nagar Palika who has been leading a door-to-door campaign, is confident that the BJP nominee would win. “Partly because the people want Modi to become Prime Minister,” she said. “And secondly, because of the image of our candidate.”
K.C. Patel is a doctor by profession.
Of the seven Assembly segments in Valsad, the Congress holds four. The remaining three, all urban-dominated constituencies, are with the BJP.
Nikhil Choksi, a BJP leader, concedes that his party is weak in the four tribal-dominated segments but claims the RSS has stepped up activities in these areas.
But Valsad-based educationist, Dharmendra Naaharvar, says the fight will be tough. “You can call it neck-and-neck,” he said, adding that the two main contestants both had their share of weaknesses.
While the Congress candidate, who is accessible to the people, has no base in the city, the BJP nominee, Naaharvar says, is a political lightweight who is banking on the influence of his brother, a surgeon who runs a hospital.
The entry of the Aam Aadmi Party and the BSP has spiced up the battle. No one knows whose votes they would eat into.
● Valsad votes on April 30