A little Bihar – right in Gujarat

In Ahmed Patel’s pocket borough, some question development narrative


Ajay Singh | November 3, 2012

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi


 Gujarat offers many surprises. One of them is a little Bihar, not far from the Narmada river in central Gujarat. It’s called Netrang, 40 km from Bharuch. Like so many other rural regions in the state, two state highways pass through it. It is also one of the nine new talukas chief minister Narendra Modi has proposed to create.

As one gets down at the Bharuch railway station, travels south and arrives in Netrang, the first thing one notices is the demographic composition, which is quite different from the rest of the state. Pockets dominated by Muslims and tribals form a visible pattern. Significantly, this area is considered to be the pocket borough of Ahmed Patel, political adviser to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Also read:
Travel to Modi land: why middle class banks on his win
As D-day inches closer, Gujarat CM goes for the jugular

In fact, this unique demographic composition has spawned a politics which has an uncanny similarity with Bihar. The Janata Dal (United), the ruling party of Bihar, dominates here. It is certainly not a measure of Nitish kumar's popularity. Far from it, JD (U) is here identified with a tribal chieftain, Chhotu Vasava, a muscleman with a formidable track record – as much of winning assembly elections as of figuring in crime records. Chhotu Vasava and his son Mahesh Vasava are accused of running an extortion racket. In Netrang, developed as an industrial zone, the Vasavas' acts of indiscretions are talk of the town. But the Vasavas remain unfazed as they get patronage from the BJP leadership.

While the Vasava fiefdom extends to the Jhagadia assembly constituency and stands out as his own republic, residents of Netrang, largely Muslims, describe Gujarat’s development narrative as a fiction produced under a grand marketing strategy. Ayub Pathan, son of a petrol pump owner called Quasim Bhai, questions development claims. For instance, he points out that Netrang's primary health centre has been functioning without a doctor or even paramedics. "Since the locality is at the intersection of two highways, fatal accidents are not uncommon here. So, often, post-mortem needs to be done," he says, but the bodies of victims lay unattended for hours on end in the absence of a sweeper and a doctor. "You have to pay through your nose to get it done," he adds.

Pathan and his father are known here as acolytes of Ahmed Patel. Hence there are reasons to take their version as a statement prejudiced by their own politics. Nevertheless, it is indicative of the fact that development of Gujarat is not universally accepted in the ongoing political discourse. However, Pathan, 37, unhesitatingly admits that the Congress does not have an option in Gujarat. "They (the state leaders of the Congress) seem to be caught in intense factional feuds and are no match to Modi's skills and stature." Then he inadvertently lets the cat out of the bag by confirming existence of rumours about bonhomie between Ahmed Patel and Modi. "There is a rumour about an unwritten pact between Patel and Modi. While Patel wants to rule Delhi, he is not interested in upsetting Modi in Gujarat." The rumour, despite its doubtful veracity, reveals possible political equations in the state.



Other News

Phase 6: Voter turnout 59.06% at 7:45 PM

Polling in the sixth phase of General Elections 2024 which commenced across 58 PCs recorded an approximate voter turnout of 59.06% as of 7:45 pm Saturday. In spite of hot weather in certain parts of the country, voters were undeterred in their enthusiasm as they were seen queuing up patient

Banks not adhering to RBI guidelines, finds study

Banks across India are levying inconsistent service charges on basic savings accounts. A study, “Benchmarking Reasonableness of Service Charges by Banks in India”, uncovers and exposes inconsistencies in adherence to RBI mandates by banks. It finds some banks impose charges exceeding reasonable

“Mumbai Infra boom similar to that of Manhattan in 19th C”

Mumbai’s ongoing infrastructure boom – with a new coastal road, Atal Setu, metro lines and much more – creating transport corridors – is comparable to that of Manhattan in New York during 1811-1870, according to BMC commissioner Bhushan Gagrani. The iconic projects being implemented

Global Gandhi: How the Mahatma captured the world’s imagination

Gandhi’s Australia, Australia’s Gandhi By Thomas Weber Orient BlackSwan, 348 pages, Rs 1,800  

Urban apathy in Mumbai, Maharashtra sees 49% voting

Polling in the fifth phase of General Elections 2024 which commenced at 7 am on Monday simultaneously across 49 PCs recorded an approximate voter turnout of 57.47% as of 7:45 pm. Voters came out in large numbers braving hot weather in many parts of the states that went for polls on Monday.

Voter turnout: Drop from 2019 reduces further

As the voting percentages dropped drastically in the first couple of phases of the ongoing general elections, observers and analysts spoke of ‘voter apathy’ blamed it on a lack of “wave” this time – apart from the heatwave, that is. The latest figures after the fourth phase, h

Visionary Talk: Amitabh Gupta, Pune Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Current Issue


Facebook Twitter Google Plus Linkedin Subscribe Newsletter