Gujarat is among the most urbanised states in the country where around 43 % of the state's population resides in the urban pockets. Apart from its impact on the socio-economic milieu, this urbanisation plays out politically as well. The same is expected this time around as well as the state goes to Assembly polls on December 1 and 5.

It needs to be underlined that 44 of the total 182 seats in the state Assembly fall in the eight municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara, Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Jamnagar and Gandhinagar. Politically speaking the state has been witnessing a rural urban divide where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been dominating the urban areas while it has been its traditional rival, the Congress, that has had a strong presence in the rural pockets.

The present elections are something to watch out for, as it remains to be seen how the entry of a new player in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) plays out amid this divide. It is being keenly watched by political observers how much support it gets in rural and urban areas and who does it damage by doing so.

The Citizen tried to understand how the rapid urbanisation has impacted the political landscape of Gujarat. This probe becomes important when one comes across commoners on the streets of cities like Ahmedabad complaining how spiralling prices have made it very difficult for them to make ends meet.

Employment is another major concern for educated youth, and of course their parents who have been spending massive amounts on their education in English medium schools and private colleges. The jobs that they have been getting are either not giving adequate remuneration, or they have to look for other avenues other than jobs.

Yet it has been the incumbent BJP that has been doing well in election after election, whether it is the parliamentary polls, the Assembly polls and even the municipal corporation elections.

"Urbanisation is now becoming a problem, a crisis in fact. How can you stop migration from villages to even smaller urban centres as the people have aspirations to lead urban lives with better amenities? So the villages are going empty.

"My village is just two and a half kilometres from Jam Jodhpur which is a very small town in Saurashtra. Yet the people want to at least move to this town and get their children educated in private English medium schools. The scenario is that while there may be four English medium schools in a radius of four kilometres, there might not be a good super specialty hospital in 40 kilometres.

"Urban aspirations are further playing out in people not willing to get their daughters married to boys residing in villages, no matter even if the boy is economically well off and has all the qualities sought in a prospective groom," explained an entrepreneur in Ahmedabad.

Those who understand the dynamics at play, point out that it is a very different crisis where there are no jobs in urban areas while there is an acute labour crisis in the villages. The Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) too has added to this phenomenon as labour from other states working in rural Gujarat flees back home to avail MNREGA employment. The people feel this crisis is going to become more severe in the days to come.

The people say that it is not that the wages being paid for work in rural areas are less or there is any other problem but a large number of youth simply do not want to be in the villages.

People point out that once in urban areas, a person is forced to pay through his nose on health, education and other basics. With land sharks dictating the real estate markets, housing remains a problem and owning a house remains a distant dream for many of these migrants. Even if they manage to purchase a dwelling, they end up paying loans for several years.

"I pay a rent of Rs 7000 while maintenance and electricity charges add up to another Rs 3000. With fuel prices hitting the roof and even cooking gas coming at Rs 1120, you can imagine how I am running the show. I just want that the government gives me some relief whether it is through cheaper cooking gas, CNG or whether by reducing my power bills," said an auto rickshaw driver from Ghatlodia locality of Ahmedabad who has migrated from North Gujarat.

Even entrepreneurs are finding the going very tough. They say that unfriendly taxation policies, pricing competition and paucity of jobs compelling people to start their own ventures is adding to the problems.

"The talk is all about startups. But you get a survey done on how many startups have lasted beyond five years and that too with government support and you will realise how grim the situation is," pointed out a startup entrepreneur.

It is a well-known fact that the small traders and manufacturers have traditionally played a very important role in sustaining Gujarat's economy. They are unhappy with the state of affairs and are willing to talk if their identities are not revealed. They complain of online platforms dealing them a severe blow and expect things to go worse in the days to come as the trend of online purchasing is fast percolating to the smaller towns and even villages. They are also unhappy with the manner in which things have proceeded under the goods and services tax (GST) regime and blame the cascading impact of the demonetization that was done in 2016.

Yet they claim that they cannot afford to air their resentment fearing vendetta in one form of harassment or the other or there being a direct implication on their vocation. But the question still remains as to how the BJP continues to dominate the urban space in the state despite all this sentiment.

Eminent political commentator Achyut Yagnik has an interesting take on why the BJP has been succeeding in Gujarat. "Now Gujarati middle class is Hindutvaised. Most of them are Hindus but now they talk about Hindu fundamentalism. For them it is also very important that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and union home minister Amit Shah are Gujaratis. Most importantly the religious sects support BJP because they talk about Hindutva.

"Because of urbanisation the urban middle class is very important. All this socio economic development in Gujarat directly or indirectly supports the BJP. Secondly, the Congress is weak as compared to the BJP," he told this reporter.

In the current election Surat has emerged as the most important playing field in the context of urban political landscape. It was here that AAP had stunned everyone in the municipal corporation polls held last year winning 27 of the 120 seats, while the Congress stood decimated to nil.

With 12 urban seats, Surat also stands out as a political window to Saurashtra since a sizable population of the city comes from Saurashtra and this population is deeply connected to its roots in the villages. Among these migrants the majority comes from the economically and politically influential Patidar community and AAP has given thrust to candidates from this community.

Surat remains AAP's best bet in the current electoral battle. The contest here is all the more important because this city has been a BJP stronghold with its legislators Harsh Sanghavi and Mukesh Patel getting representation as ministers in the present government. The current Surat MP Darshana Jardosh is union minister of state for railways while the state BJP chief CR Paatil is a Lok Sabha member from neighbouring Navsari.