The BJP led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi may be looking to the sweep the state elections this year but in some regions like Surat, the heart of the diamond polishing industry of Gujarat, he may still be forced to play second fiddle to former mentor and opponent Keshubhai Patel.
Home to the powerful Leuva Patel community who have a stronghold over the diamond polishing industry, Surat is one of the former BJP leader’s bastions. And as the election season approaches its final stages, CNN-IBN found that the community is reaching out to its followers using massive election rallies – a show of their strength against the formidable force of Narendra Modi.
Religious functions are organised regularly in Surat – which however, also double up as a powerful election campaign tool. The Leuva Patels are also arch supporters of Keshubhai Patel, a fact that he highlighted by celebrating his 83rd birthday in the city.
“The Patel lobby is completely anti-Modi. We will support Keshubhai Patel,”one of Patel’s supporters told CNN-IBN.
This sentiment is deep-rooted among most members of the Patel community- making Surat a difficult battle to win for Modi.
However, it hasn’t stopped Modi from playing the development card in Surat during rallies, as he has been doing for the rest of the state.
Surat, the second largest city of Gujarat is also the ninth highest GDP-earning city this year. It is a city built on entrepreneurial spirit – the two most common industries being the diamond polishing industry and the wholesale cloth market.
However, the diamond polishing industry is hardly bothered about the electoral battle.
“The state government and the central government have done precious little for the entire trade. The industry has prospered on its own, with the grit and hard work of its own employees,” a diamond told CNN-IBN.