In Gandhi’s land, ‘bhai’ seeks to maintain his political dominance

The BJP is seeking votes on behalf of Narendra Modi, but “will he call the prime minister for problems in his village?” asks incumbent MLA Kandhal Jadeja as a small crowd applauds the strong politician’s speech to re-elect him to get things done. Made locally and not relying on Delhi.

As the road winds towards India’s border on the west coast, rumors about who will form the next government in Gujarat give way to whether the political dominance of ‘bhai’, as Jadeja is often called, will continue in this assembly mostly rural. segment.

The son of Santokben Jadeja, whose criminal enterprise spawned the Hindi film ‘Godmother’, he himself is accused in numerous serious criminal cases, but claims they belong to the past and people vote for him because of his accessibility and work.

He has been among a handful of state MLAs who have been winning on the strength of his personal appeal in the past two polls in an otherwise heavily bipolar election scene in the state, unaffected by larger political trends.

It is not ‘takat ka jod’ (use of force) but ‘ekta ka jod’ (unity power), Jadeja tells PTI while pointing to the crowd of people around him when questioned about the intimidation tactics charge against him, and then adds that the big parties oppose him because he “lives” in the hearts of the people.

Throughout the constituency, there are people who admire him for his willingness to help them and push development work forward, but many also admit that he is not one to take kindly to any opposition.

Kutiyana is part of the Porbandar district of Gujarat, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. It is alleged that Jadeja’s parents used to run a criminal enterprise, which flourished with smuggling and violence, in the port region before police action weakened the gang.

Porbandar, however, is a separate constituency in the district.

His father, Sarman Munja Jadeja, was shot dead by rivals, which lured his mother in charge of the family’s alleged crime syndicate. She was elected MLA from Kutiyana in 1990.

Having won the last two polls on the Nationalist Congress Party ticket, Kandhal Jadeja is running as the Samajwadi Party candidate after he was denied re-election by the NCP at the behest of his ally Congress due to his support for the ruling BJP in various topics, including in the crucial Rajya Sabha Polls.

This has also helped him implement development projects in his constituency, say the locals, adding that ‘Kandhal bhai’ believes in doing things and is not much concerned with the ways of doing it.

He himself does not deny such a suggestion. ”Kaam ke liye thoda idhar udhar karta hun. Kaam hai to naam hai. (I bend things a bit for the job. If the job gets done, then you get credit),” he says.

And because of this, Jadeja adds, he does not join big parties like the BJP or the Congress.

”At big parties you have to follow the rules. But I don’t believe in following rules but in doing my job,” he says.

Although Congress and Aam Aadmi Party candidates are also running against him, the BJP’s Dheliben Odedara is seen as his main rival.

Odedara is the president of the local municipal body and has presented herself as a brave woman who has dared to confront Jadeja.

She is also his distant relative and hopes to walk away with a share of the Maher community votes, which are in large numbers in Kutiyana.

There is also an opinion among the locals that Jadeja may be a strong man, but he is also a shrewd political operator who has maintained good ties with the BJP and the Congress.

Many local congress workers are backing him because they know a Jadeja victory is one seat down for the BJP, say many in the constituency.

Jadeja himself wants to stay out of the battle between the BJP and Congress.

”My only focus is ‘vikas’ from my constituency. I don’t care what’s going on in other places,” she says.

When asked about his opinion of the likely outcome of the assembly poll, he again googles it, saying that no party can get a majority. So who will he support? ”Whichever party secures ‘vikas’ from my constituency,” he says.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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