Vadodara, Dec 9 (UNI) Gujarat Primary education minister Bhupendra Lakhawala is apparently all set to clinch the prestigious Vadodara city seat for the fourth consecutive term with a clear pro-BJP and Narendra Modi wave sweeping the constituency.
Locked in a six-cornered contest, the BJP stalwart seems to be miles ahead of his principal rival Dr Rajendrasinh Rathod of the faction-ridden Vadodara Congress in the campaign trail, with only a week left for Vadodara to go to polls on December 16.
Political observers are of the view that having failed to find a suitable candidate to take on the BJP heavyweight following intense rivalry between Best Bakery fame Chandrakant Srivastava and former city Congress president Bhikhabhai Rabari, the Congress has virtually handed over the seat to their opponent by nominating Dr Rathwa, who was reportedly an aspirant for the party ticket to contest the Sayajiganj seat in the city.
Despite the bickering in the local Congress over the surprise nomination of former Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) mayor, Dr Rathod is hopeful of turning the table in his favour and wresting this traditional BJP seat, mainly with the support of the Kshatriyas, Maharashtrians and the 2002 riot-hit minority community, who have a strong presence here.
The two main contenders, who have leveled a series of allegations and counter allegations on issues like political stability, development and peace, however, ruled out the possibility of polarisation of votes on communal lines this time as it was witnessed in the 2002 polls which was fought in the backdrop of the Godhra train carnage and the subsequent communal violence in the state.
Fifty-four-year-old Lakhawala, a Vania by caste, who completed his hat-trick in 2002 polls by defeating Congress candidate Chandrakant Srivastava by a margin of 46,076 votes with his votes share of 63.64 per cent, is, however, confident of winning the seat for the fourth term with a record margin even if the Muslims vote en masse against him.