Bhavnagar: The Bhavnagar Lok Sabha constituency in South-East Gujarat is witnessing a three-cornered contest amongst the Congress, BJP and AAP even as both the main parties are battling hard to reach out to the decisive Koli community votes in a bid to combat increasing AAP factor here.
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.
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.
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.
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 (Koli) votes," BJP candidate Bharati Shiyal told a news agency.
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.
Also, Shiyal has denied any major impact of the AAP in Bhavnagar Lok Sabha seat and said, "Kanubhai Kalsaria cannot do any damage here as one of his close aide Manhar Baldaniya has joined us."
However, Congress candidate Pravin Rathod, 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," Pravin Rathod told a news agency.
Rathod has further claimed that people will vote for him as UPA has brought the pro-people acts like MNREGA and Right to Food.
He has alleged that BJP`s PM nominee`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," Kalsaria told a news agency.
On the caste-factor, Kalsariya said, "Caste-based politics is an evil for democracy. Instead of fielding best candidates they (Congress and BJP) have fielded sitting MLAs from Koli community. That is why Kshatriya community is aggrieved with them."
The ex-BJP rebel MLA has also claimed that his party AAP can encash the votes of other communities as both the big parties has only fielded the candidates of Koli community.
He had fought the 2012 Assembly Election from Gariyadhar seat of Bavnagar district as an independent candidate but lost to BJP`s candidate Keshu Nakrani.
If 2012 elections on seven Assembly segments of Bhavnagar Lok Sabha seat are seen as any indicator, then BJP which won six seats is clearly ahead of the Congress which managed to get only one seat.