Bhavnagar has remained with the BJP since 1991 held by five term present MP Rajendrasinh Rana, who has been given rest this time as the party decided to field sitting MLA from Talaja seat and Koli leader Bharti Shiyal. (Agencies)
In Bhavnagar, the Koli community is decisive having 4.50 lakh vote share out of 15.93 lakh total voters which also includes Patel (2.25 lakh), Kshatriya (1.70 lakh), Muslims (75 thousands) and Ahir- Maldhari (60,000).
The Congress, which selected its candidates on the basis of primaries, has fielded a 'Koli' leader Pravin Rathod to lure the community having the largest vote chunk in the constituency.
The Aam Aadmi Party has given ticket to former BJP MLA Kanu Kalsaria, who belongs to Ahir community.
The Congress has been canvassing the achievements of the UPA government, while BJP has been relying upon the Gujarat model of development and their prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's 'wave'.
Riding on the anti-corruption agenda, AAP has been claiming to seek votes from all 'castes and creeds' with a hope to get support from dissident communities who are upset by the decision of the major parties to field Koli nominees.
The candidates of BJP and Congress have been raising local as well as national issues, while AAP candidate has been depending upon the single point agenda of eradicating 'crony capitalism' and 'corruption'.
"I myself belong to the Koli community. State Minister Parshottam Solanki, who also belongs to our community, has been canvassing for me. So we are sure to get their votes," said BJP candidate Bharati Shiyal.
Shiyal said that sitting MP Rajendrasinh Rana too has been campaigning in favour of BJP and seeking votes by projecting 'development' done by his party's PM candidate.
"We are raising both national and local issues here. People have been suffering due to inflation, corruption and terrorism and we have promised to cure this situation... while in this constituency we have assured continuous electricity and water supply," Shiyal said.
Shiyal denied any major impact of the AAP in Bhavnagar Lok Sabha seat.
“Kanubhai Kalsaria cannot do any damage here as one of his close aide Manhar Baldaniya has joined us,” Shiyal said.
Congress candidate Pravin Rathod, however, is confident of getting the 'Koli' community votes.
"More than 60 percent people of the Koli community are with me. Our party workers are doing hard work to reach out to the entire community," said Rathod.
Rathod claimed that people will vote for him as the UPA has brought the pro-people acts like MNREGA and Right to Food.
He alleged that Modi’s development claims are false as the people do not get basic facilities like water and electricity, while farmers are aggrieved with the policies of the state government.
Kalsaria, who left BJP after differences with the state government on the issue of agriculture land allocation for Nirma's cement plant, may make a dent in both the parties' vote-bank due to his acceptability amongst urban voters.
"We have been raising the issues of corruption...instead of making pro-farmer policies this government is making such law that can put poor farmers behind the bars. We will oppose such policies," said Kalsaria.
On the caste-factor Kalsariya said, "Caste based politics is an evil for democracy. Instead of fielding best candidates they have fielded sitting MLAs from Koli community. That is why Kshatriya community is aggrieved with them."
The ex-BJP rebel MLA also claimed that AAP can encash the votes of other communities as both the big parties have only fielded the candidates of Koli community.
He had fought the 2012 Assembly elections from Gariyadhar seat of Bavnagar district as an independent candidate but lost to BJP's candidate Keshu Nakrani.
Bhavnagar has remained with the BJP since 1991 held by five term present MP Rajendrasinh Rana, who has been given rest this time as the party decided to field sitting MLA from Talaja seat and Koli leader Bharti Shiyal.