Bharuch, a bustling town in south Gujarat known for its peanuts, may not be an Allahabad or Amethi for the Gandhi family, but it is getting special treatment from the Congress.
The party is going all out to woo back the town that houses the ancestral home of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s husband Feroze.
“This house belonged to Feroze Gandhi’s ancestors. Indira and Feroze Gandhi had visited this place soon after their marriage,” says 68-year old Tehmurasp Vimadalal, the present owner of the 3,000 sq ft house in Kotpariwad, the city’s Parsi neighbourhood.
Feroze spent a part of his childhood in this house, which belonged to his grandfather, Vimadalal added.
Bharuch district with a population of around 24 lakhs had been a Congress stronghold in the 80s. However, the party lost its hold over the district managing to retain only one of the five constituencies in the last elections.
Party president Sonia Gandhi is now trying to revert the trend and helping her is senior leader Ahmed Patel whose native place Piraman is also in the district.
Two private helipads have been constructed that will be used during campaigning and the state Congress has lined up a galaxy of star campaigners for Bharuch.
“Madam Sonia Gandhi will be addressing a gathering here. Rahul Gandhi will also hold a road show,” said Bharuch district Congress committee’s spokesperson Nazu Tadwala.
The other star campaigners who will descend in Bharuch include young turks like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot, RJD chief Lalu Prasad, Govinda and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.
“We are proud of the Gandhi family’s association with the district. We will reclaim this seat back from the BJP,” said Arun Singh Rana, the party’s candidate from Bharuch.
The district with a 15 per cent Muslim population has also elected a Muslim to the Assembly, one of the only five Muslims in 182-seat state Assembly.
Even though Bharuch holds sentimental value for Sonia, the people are not excited about its association with the Gandhi family.
“I have been sending letters to the party officials for the past 20 years to turn this house into a memorial. However, I haven’t received any reply. The party plays up the Gandhi family’s association with Bahruch only during election time,” says Vimadalal.