While voters have been traditionally used to Kshatriya candidates in Bhavnagar, parties have fielded candidates from a different community this time around, and it would be interesting see how the divided city votes this time, says Haresh Pandya
Bhavnagar is an erstwhile princely state of Saurashtra, and it was normal that a representative of the warrior Kshatriya community used to be elected to Parliament from there. The contest was also invariably between two Kshatriya candidates, with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Rajendrasinh Rana winning hands down for the last five terms.
For the Lok Sabha 2014 elections however, both the BJP and the Congress have gambled by fielding candidates from the equally powerful Koli community, which tops the list with 504,000 (32 per cent) votes in Bhavnagar district.
Rana, who defeated the Congress’ Dileepsinh Gohil in 1999; Gigabhai Gohil in 2004, and Mahavirsinh Gohil in 2009, has not been given a ticket this time, much to the chagrin of the Kshatriya community. Angry Kshatriya leaders were planning to field an independent candidate, but saner counsel prevailed and a brewing revolt within the BJP was nipped in the bud.
One of the reasons why both the BJP and the Congress have preferred Koli candidates is the alleged anger and displeasure against the Kshatriya community by other castes, which reflected in the results of the assembly elections in Gujarat in December 2012.
While the BJP has given a ticket to Bharti Shiyal, a sitting member of legislative assembly from Talaja, the Congress has fielded Pravin Rathod, a sitting MLA from Palitana. Interestingly, the Aam Aadmi Party has also fielded a candidate -- and he, too, is not Kshatriya. Former BJP MLA-turned rebel Kanu Kalsaria from Mahuva, who belongs to the Ahir community, is the AAP man.
Kalsaria, who had rebelled against his own government’s move to grant agricultural land to Nirma for its much-publicised cement plant in Mahuva, fought the 2012 assembly elections under the Sadbhavna Manch banner from the Gariyadhar constituency of Bhavnagar district, but lost to the BJP’s Keshu Nakrani.
“The people maybe believed that Sadbhavna Manch was not a fit political outfit and just a small party. But I am sure the situation will be different now. They will definitely repose their confidence in us under the AAP banner. They want to see the third alternative and they know that the AAP is the best option,” said Kalsaria.
“People are fed up with corruption and caste-based politics and both the BJP and Congress will have to face the countrymen’s anger in these elections,” he added.
Despite his tall claims, Kalsaria is unlikely to be the surprise winner on this important seat. But it will be interesting to see how much damage his candidature does to the BJP and Congress candidates in terms of division of votes.
With all the three main candidates hailing from outside Bhavnagar, it will also be interesting to see how the city voters, who are bound to be divided between two major Koli contestants, will react when Gujarat goes to polls on April 30.
Image: AAP candidate Kanu Kalsaria