Gujarat elections: From industrialist to candidate, with promises of jobs

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Ahmedabad: At age 70, candy manufacturer Dhanjibhai Patel heads into his first election flaunting a certificate of “Self Made Industrialist” from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and an “Import Substitution President Award”.
Protests have marked his selection by the BJP selection, besides upsetting caste calculations. In a seat where Jains are the largest community, the BJP has been winning since 1990, its successive MLAs being a Kshatriya (Ranjitbhai Zala), a Marwadi (Dhanraj Kela) and Varshaben Doshi (Jain). Wadhwan’s entry has turned the contest into Patel vs Patel. The Congress, which had fielded a Brahmin for the last five polls, has now given the ticket to Mohanbhai Patel. At an estimated 7% in a seat of 2.67 lakh voters, Patidars number barely half the Jains, estimated at 13%.
Dhanjibhai, who describes himself as a farmer and social worker, owns Makson Group that makes candy and confectionery, exports to 22 countries, and claims to have generated the highest employment in Surendranagar district. He has declared assets worth over Rs 100 crore.
He seeks votes in Modi’s name and cites his own “social work” and promises jobs by opening more industries. “I am not a politician. Look at me, do I look like one?”
Why politics after a lifetime in industry? “For 25 years, I have done sewa but faced problems due to political influence. Money with politics makes things easy. I promise you that within six months, you will see my work in this area,” he told The Indian Express.
And how is he a farmer? “Because I am a Patel,” he said. “My father and forefathers were into farming.”
On the first day of his campaign in rural areas, he addressed a meeting at Sankali village and tarveled to Bhadiyad village of 700 voters, where he said: “This is a direct fight between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. Now you tell me whom you will vote for, who you think can win.” On prompting by the BJP workers, the villagers replied: “Narendra Modi.”
Addressing villagers from outside a temple, Dhanjibhai said: “I will have an office without a door, anyone can drop in with their problems.” He said his factories employ 25,000. “I already have 25,000 votes in my family. I will not take my salary as MLA… My daughter-in law takes her first meal of the day only after she donates items worth Rs 11,000.”

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