rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » The Kolis are the 'new factor' in Saurashtra politics

The Kolis are the 'new factor' in Saurashtra politics

April 30, 2014 11:37 IST

The Kolis are the 'new factor' in Saurashtra politics

     Next

Next
Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

In Saurashtra, a region that sends 7 MPs to Parliament, four Koli candidates have been fielded by the Congress and three by the BJP.

These numbers offer clear indication of how the scales are tilting in favour of the dominant caste in Bhavnagar and Saurashtra. "The Kolis in this region can no longer be ignored," says Kunwarjibhai Bavaliya, the Congress MP from Rajkot, a Koli.

Tucked on the outskirts of Bhavnagar town, just where the land meets marshes, is the Koli (fisherfolk) ghetto of Karcheliya Para.

Home to some 18,000 voters, all Kolis, the colony, a mix of kuchcha-pucca houses, pot-holed roads, crisscrossing electricity cables, Karcheliya Para gives an impression of a neighbourhood on the move.

Mostly daily wage workers employed in the construction of roads and buildings, the youth of Karcheliya Para quickly gather under the tree shade to chat about the prospects in the Bhavnagar Lok Sabha constituency.

Their interest in the goings on stems from the fact that two of the top three contenders share their caste.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party fielded Bhartiben Shiyal, a Koli MLA from Talaja, the Congress candidate, the MLA from Palitana, Pravin Rathod, is also a Koli.

Rathod emerged as the winner of the Congress primary in Bhavnagar under a programme encouraged by party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi.

Koli voters make up a decisive 32 per cent of Bhavnagar's 1.6 million electorate and it is these 500,000 voters that the BJP and Congress candidates are banking upon to win this constituency.

The Aam Aadmi Party's Dr Kanubhai Kalsaria, a three time BJP MLA from Mahuva in Bhavnagar district, is the third contender. Dr Kalsaria belongs to the Ahir community that has about 100,000 voters in this constituency.

Chiman Makwana, a resident of Karcheliya Para, quit school after Class 8. He joined his father as a mason and earns Rs 100 on a day he finds work. Makwana is quite vocal when he talks about the two Koli candidates.

"Both are outsiders," he says. "But my vote will go to Bhartiben," he declares.

His friend Ramesh Yadav is also a BJP supporter. The fact that the party replaced its Rajput candidate Rajendrasinh Rana, a five-time BJP MP since 1991, with a Koli face this election, has made him feel all the more prouder.

Please click Next to read more...


Image: Koli youth from Karcheliya Para. From left: Chiman Makwana, Ramesh Yadav, Raju Koli, Pratap Rathod, Kumbhoj Yadav and Sujan Balli.
Photographs: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

     Next

The Kolis are the 'new factor' in Saurashtra politics

Prev     Next
Prev

Next
Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

In the 2012 state assembly election, Bhavnagar district with 9 assembly seats, returned four Kolis: Three from the BJP (including Shiyal) and one from the Congress (Rathod).

In Saurashtra, a region that sends 7 MPs to Parliament, four Koli candidates have been fielded by the Congress and three by the BJP.

These numbers offer clear indication of how the scales are tilting in favour of the dominant caste in Bhavnagar and Saurashtra. "The Kolis in this region can no longer be ignored," says Kunwarjibhai Bavaliya, the Congress MP from Rajkot, a Koli.

In Saurashtra, where Kolis make up 27 per cent of the electorate, the community has begun to emerge on the leadership ladder in Gujarat, according to Bavaliya. The Congress candidate is confident that he party's four Koli candidates will romp home with handsome victories on May 16.

"The Congress started nominating Koli candidates and the BJP had to react," admits Bharatsinh Gohil, the BJP spokesperson for Saurashtra, blaming the Congress for this caste-based candidate selection.

"While the BJP may not openly admit it, the way they have been accommodating Fisheries Minister Purshottam Solanki despite charges of corruption against him speaks for the dominance of Kolis in Gujarat politics," says advocate Vinubhai Gandhi who has been espousing one of Saurashtra's most ambitious projects -- Kalpsar that envisages constructing a 29 km dam across the Gulf of Khambat from Bhavnagar to Dahej.

Please click Next to read more...


Image: Karcheliya Para has 18,000 Koli voters and most of them have, said this group of six, decided to vote for Bhartiben Shiyal of the BJP.
Photographs: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

The Kolis are the 'new factor' in Saurashtra politics

Prev     More
Prev

More
Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

Jitubhai Vaghani, the BJP MLA from Bhavnagar West, denies the Koli factor and maintains that the party is fighting this election only on the development and governance agenda.

"There is only one issue here," Vaghani says. "The people of Saurashtra want to see Narendrabhai Modi as India's PM."

Back in Karcheliya Para, Yadav and Makwana are joined by Raju Koli, Pratap Rathod, Kumbhoj Yadav and Sujan Balli. All daily workers, they have returned home after unloading a grain consignment at a grocery store in Sandhiyavad, a predominantly Muslim residential colony.

Raju and Sujan, both matriculates, are aware of the winds of change blowing in their community. They are aware that education will play a big role if their community's progress has to be sustained in the long-term.

Raju teaches part-time in a school run by his uncle, Narayandas, that has 190 girls on its rolls.

"Koli girls are no longer confined to their homes today," says Raju. "They understand the worth of education. They aspire for and demand higher education. They want to lift their families out of their poor living conditions. We believe the BJP will help us achieve our dreams."

"More than 80 per cent of the girls here go to schools and almost as many boys too," says Sujan.

"Looking at the way political parties are banking on us to take them through," adds Sujan, "we know that the Kolis are emerging as the 'new factor' in Saurashtra politics."


Image: A lane inside Karcheliya Para. BJP flags were hoisted by supporters outside their homes.
Photographs: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

Prev     More