PABUBHA Manek, the BJP candidate from Dwarka, has never lost an election from the Assembly seat – winning it consecutively seven times, since 1990. The last time he defeated the Congress’s Mulu Kandoriya by 5,739 votes.
This Assembly election marks the third time in succession that the two leaders will be facing off against each other, with the margin between them in 2012 also almost the same.
Manek’s unshakeable hold on the seat is at least partially attributed to support from all communities, including Muslims. That may now be hit after the Bet Dwarka demolitions, including of minority religious structures, which the BJP is tom-tomming in its campaign.
Kandoriya has been unable to defeat Manek despite belonging to the largest group of voters in Dwarka seat, of the Ahirs (around 52,000). They are followed by another OBC group, Sathvaras (40,000), with Vaghers, the community Manek hails from, third at around 25,000. Muslims, mainly concentrated in Okha, Bet Dwarka and the Rupen harbour, are only partially behind, at around 24,000, followed by Dalits (15,000).
This time, complicating the equations is the nomination by the Aam Aadmi Party of Lakhman Nakum, a Sathvara, from Dwarka.
Comprising the temple town Dwarka, the harbour town Okha, the Bet Dwarka island as well as the Raval municipality, the Dwarka constituency is largely rural, with agriculture and fishing the main occupations, apart from jobs at a Tata Chemicals plant near Okha. Religious tourism has seen a boom in recent years, with Dwarka one of the four Char Dhams. Ferry boats remain the lifeline between Bet Dwarka and the mainland, with work on a sea-link that began in 2017 still ongoing.
Following his 2017 loss, Kandoriya had moved the Gujarat High Court seeking Manek’s disqualification an over alleged error in his poll affidavit. While the High Court had granted Kandoriya’s plea in April 2019, the Supreme Court had ordered a stay, and the matter rested there.
Asked about the secret of his success, Manek told The Indian Express, “I am not elected but selected, by voters of all communities. My mantra is to help people as much I can, but to never be a hurdle to anyone.”
Addressing an election rally for Manek Wednesday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath noted that seven of the candidates who had fought election against Manek in the past were seated on the dais beside him.
In another marker of success, Manek, a school dropout, today runs shipping, transport and real estate businesses among others. He declared assets worth Rs 144 crore this time, including those in the name of his wife and family.