The slogans “Eek moko AAP ne panchi jovo Gujarat me” (Give AAP a chance and then see the transformation in Gujarat) and “Gabbar avyavo che” (Gabbar has arrived) rent the air in the Chikuwadi in Surat as Alpesh Kathiriya, the Aam Aadmi Party candidate from Varachha Road Assembly seat, along with a group of supporters, went from door to door seeking votes for the upcoming State election.
People living in multi-storey residential complexes and colonies were delighted to welcome the young Patidar quota agitation leader. “No other party’s candidate goes to each household asking for votes. Only their supporters come and hand over the party’s flyer,” a resident said.
“We are with you Babbar Sher. Just continue to do the hard work, and you will win the election with a thumping majority,” a middle-aged man told Mr. Kathiriya.
Speaking to The Hindu during his campaign trail, the 28-year-old Patidar leader said the current government had “cheated” not only the Patidar community but also the people of Gujarat by making false promises.
“Patidars were once staunch supporters of the BJP party, and only with their loyal votes, the saffron party was able to form the government all these years. Now the situation has changed. People are tired of their false promises and nasty politics,” he said.
According to Mr. Kathiriya, who joined AAP recently, the Varachha Road Assembly constituency has more than 2 lakh voters, and a majority of them belong to Patidars. “As many as 73% of voters are Patidars, while 12% to 13% are OBC, 8,000 to 10,000 are Dalits. There are about 600 Muslim voters and 5,500 North Indian voters in the area,” he said.
“Look at the skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, fuel and rising unemployment. This government is not worried about the plight of the general public,” he said.
Mr. Kathiriya said AAP’s promise of 300 units of free power to every household, free education, health care, and financial support of ₹1,000 to every woman above 18 years, was going to be a game changer in the State.
When asked about the prospects of the Congress party, he said that the grand old party was nowhere to be seen and their leaders were “missing”. “Unlike the 2017 election when AAP was not in the fray, this time the fight is between the saffron party and AAP. Talking about the Congress party is like wasting our time,” the Patidar leader and practising criminal lawyer claimed. “People hardly know their local leadership now, and so far no national leader has come to the State for campaigning. This only proves their disinterest,” he said.
Elaborating on the detailed strategy of his campaign, Mr. Kathiriya said that he planned to cover every household three times before polling so as to reinforce AAP’s approach to the electorate.
The party has devised a strategy to capture the attention of office-goers and businesspersons every morning by holding placards at all the junctions during the poll campaign. “Our ‘standing campaign’ starts at 7.30 a.m., which is followed by door-to-door campaign from 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m, and from 4 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. Later in the evening, we organise jan sabhas (public meetings),” the party leader said.
AAP has a strong vote bank in the constituency as they already have three corporators who won the Surat civic polls. “Corporators of wards 3, 4 and 5 are from our party,” said Mr. Kathiriya.