In Gujarat panchayat polls, Dalit versus Dalit: Relatives of Una flogging victims fight for same seat

The three Dalits slugging it out for the lone seat include Arvind Sarvaiya, a candidate fielded by incumbent sarpanch Praful Korat.

Written by Gopal Kateshiya | Rajkot | Updated: December 28, 2016 2:08 pm
People queue up to cast votes in the Panchmahals on Tuesday. Bhupendra Rana People queue up to cast votes in the Panchmahals on Tuesday. Bhupendra Rana

As the polling concluded peacefully in Saurashtra region on Tuesday, the Dalits of Mota Samadhiyala stood divided. The three members of the extended Sarvaiya family (seven of its members were flogged in July for skinning dead cow) fought it out for the lone reserved seat for the Scheduled Caste (SC) in the election to Mota Samadhiyala village panchayat in Una taluka of Gir Somnath district. The seat — Ward No.6 — of Mota Samadhiyala village panchayat is reserved for the SC this election. But three Approximately 70 per cent voting was recorded.

 

The three Dalits slugging it out for the lone seat include Arvind Sarvaiya, a candidate fielded by incumbent sarpanch Praful Korat. Ramesh Sarvaiya is a nominee of Dhanji Korat, the main challenger to the incumbent sarpanch. Yet another Dalit, Nathu Sarvaiya, is seeking election to the panchayat body as a member of the panel of Bhavesh Korat, who is not affiliated with any party. All those backing the Dalit candidates of ward 6 are Patidars contesting for the sarpanch’s post.

There are 27 Dalit families in Mota Samadhiyala. They are all Sarvaiyas and before three generations, they were members of only seven families. Six Dalits of this village were allegedly flogged by a group of gau rakshaks in July this year while they were reportedly skinning a cow carcass. Balu Sarvaiya, who was one of the seven beaten by the cow vigilantes, has since then become the face of the Dalit protests across the state.

Dalit votes are divided among three wards and, therefore the community doesn’t have the numbers to directly decide the outcome. But sources claimed there was a change in general voting pattern of Dalits this election. Balu Sarvaiya said that he went to polling booth and cast his vote even though he had fever. His son Ramesh and wife Kunvar also voted. His elder son Vashram and daughter-in-law Vanita were out of station. Patidars dominate this village which has 1,346 total voters. The community has around 500 votes followed by Ahirs and Dalits. But all the candidates for the post of sarpanch are Patidars.

“I’have done good work over the last five years. I ensured the construction of cement concrete roads measuring 1,080 metres in the village. There is scope for covering the entire village. The drainage system and village roads also need improvement. I would like to finish the good work which I started in my first term. Therefore, I am seeking reelection,” says Korat, a farmer who also runs a dairy farm.

On the other hand, Dhanji Korat said that he wants to develop the village further and help common people by becoming the sarpanch of the village. Bhavesh Korat says he has promised not to allow allocation of plots to Dalits at the present site identified by authorities. “That will mean three Dalit localities in the village and other people will not purchase plot in that area. I also want to remove encroachment from the crematorium,” says Bhavesh.

After the flogging incident, the state government had conducted a survey in the village and identified a few Dalit families for allocation of residential plots. But the process is yet to be completed. All of the 91 village panchayats of Una taluka went to polls. Out of them, 13 have been declared samras, with candidates declared winners uncontested. Two of these 13 village panchayats will have all-women boards.

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