Dec 10, 2012 at 08:03pm IST

Gujarat Yatra: Surat entrepreneurs split between Modi, Keshubhai

Surat: Surat - Gujarat's second-largest city, that recorded the ninth-highest GDP in India in 2012, is growing rapidly and new flyovers are being constructed every month. The diamond city is commended for best utilising the Centre's JNURM funds.

The city is also known for its women entrepreneurs. Bhartiben from Ankleshwar picks up her monthly stock of saris from a wide array available at Surat's textile market and takes them back home. Bharti has five shops that cater solely to women's wear. What started as a small business venture to get some extra income is now a full fledged business. "I started my business 8 years ago with Rs 10,000 and 100 sarees. My business has come a long way since then," says Bhartiben.

Just like Bharti and the sheen of the fabric she buys, the glitter of the precious stone has also lifted thousands of families out of poverty, giving them new wealth and hope, not to forget a political edge. Nine out of ten diamonds worldwide are polished here. Surat is home to a significant number of Leuva Patel diamond traders and workers from Saurashtra. The traders and workers together form a formidable force not only in pockets of Surat.

Just a few days before the vote is cast, all eyes were on the community's latest show of strength. At a gathering of the Khodaldham Trust site in Surat, ostensibly a religious function, its chairman Naresh Patel was weighed in silver.

The Patel diamond barons have always enjoyed close proximity with Keshubhai. Right from arranging crowds during his public meetings to playing an important role in shaping his political career. "Patel lobby does not support Modi. We support Keshubhai," says one.

And while it was Surat that Keshubhai zeroed in to celebrate his 83rd birthday, his political rival Narendra Modi has also often tried reaching to leading diamond merchants. But the industry that works on trust has believed they have survived on their own grit. "The diamond industry in Surat thrives on its own, the Central or the state government doesn't extend much support," says Mahesh Sonani, a diamond merchant.

The diamond worker and the industry may be feeling let down but it's the likes of Sonalben that Modi has tapped when he promised to make Gujarat the textile capital of the country in the party's manifesto. Sonal and her mother-in-law Radha have been stitching their way to prosperity for the last decade. Together the two have not just supported the family income but have helped several women make a strident move.

Everyone has to work to pay the expenses of running a home. The women earn Rs 10,000-12,000 and contribute to their family.