Gun power in politics showed itself in its ugliest form recently when Porbandar Congress MP Vitthal Radadiya,who has two firearm licences,was caught on camera brandishing a double-barrel shotgun at a Vadodara toll booth. Booth operators had asked for proof that he is an MP,a status he had cited while seeking to be excused the Rs 80 tax.
Ahead of the Assembly elections,The Indian Express has found that over half the MLAs of Gujarat at least 93 of 182 have firearm licences. Some have more than one. Eight are ministers and two are women MLAs. A woman MP,too,has a gun. Many of the MLAs have not yet deposited their firearms ahead of the elections. The code of conduct includes a rule that requires every licence holder to surrender his or her guns until the polls are over.
SAURASHTRA & KUTCH: 34 of 58
The region has a third of the 182 seats. All six MLAs of Amreli district of this region have a licence,though Lathi MLA Hanu Dhorajiya has not bought a weapon. BJP MLA from Kutiyana Karsan Dula has two licenses. Bhavnagar MLA Vibhavari Dave says,I got my licence in 1997 when as mayor I was facing threats. I want to give it up as the environment in the state is now safe. Rajkots Congress MP Kunvarji Bavalia feels guns are necessary for security.
SOUTH GUJARAT: 8 of 22
Congress MLA Punaji Gamit (Vyara) has had two licences for 15 years now; Prabhu Vasawa (Songadh) has had his for 10 years. Vasawa says,I love rifles and I keep a firearm with me all the time. I am a farmer and my agricultural land is close to the forest. We take rounds of our fields around midnight and we need to protect ourselves from wild animals. Vijay Patel,BJP MLA from Dangs,runs a petrol pump and says he needs his pistol to protect his earnings. It is risky to take the cash home and to the bank. I have had this pistol for a year now. Of Navsari districts BJP MLAs,R C Patel (Jalalpore) has a licensed revolver while Naresh Patel (Chikhli) has applied for a gun licence but is yet to get it. In Valsad district,Raman Patkar (BJP,Umargam) says he runs a hardware business,owns agricultural land and keeps a gun for self-defence. We have got an intimation from the police and will definitely surrender our weapons, he says.
C R Patil,MP from Navsari and a former policeman,has three licences for a .12-bore Indian-made gun,a .32-bore Smith & Wesson,a Spanish Ruby pistol and a self-confessed weakness for guns. I have licences for a rifle,a pistol and a revolver. I got my first licence when I was a constable in the Surat police (in 1985),applied for one more after leaving the job,and got the third a few years ago, Patil said. I love firearms and keeping guns and pistols is a hobby.
AHMEDABAD: 5 of 8
Bharat Barot (Dariapur in Ahmedabad city),whose name had come up in a recent controversy around the kidnapping of a city builder,has owned a Walther revolver for 12 years. The state government has given me police cover and I have a Walther licensed from Ahmedabad. The revolver is with me all the time. Kanti Lakum (Bavla) has an American revolver a friend had bought him. I have kept this for several years for my protection, he says. Babu Patel (Daskroi),who too owns an American revolver,says his gun is generally with his secretary,except in emergency situations. Pragji Patel (Mandal),who says he has deposited his American gun,says he rarely keeps it with him. Dhanduka MLA Ranchod Mer has a UK-made revolver but says he doesnt known how to use it. Kanji Talpada (Dholka) has had his revolver for 15 years. It is a .6 bore revolver,made in Kanpur.
GANDHINAGAR: None in 4
The capital region is represented by four MLAs,none of whom have arms,though at least eight ministers who work here are armed. Shambhuji Thakor,MLA from Gandhinagar says,I have never kept a revolver with me. My security men have the latest weapons. Kalyan Chauhan,Suresh Patel and Babu Thakor say they were satisfied with the security the state provides.
CENTRAL GUJARAT: 31 of 64
Kheda counts the highest at eight,followed by Dahod where all six MLAs have guns. In Kheda,the MLAs from Mehmdabad,Nadiad,Mahudha,Matar,Kapadvanj,Kathlal,Balasinor and Thasra have firearms. In Anand,the Congress MLAs from Petlad and Bhadran,and the NCPs Jayant Patel alias Bosky,from Sarsa,have licensed guns. Petlads Niranjan Patel says after his nephew was murdered in 2000,I was advised by family and friends to keep a weapon and got it in 2001. In Panchmahals,five of seven hold weapons. These include C K Raolji (Congress,Godhra) and Jetha Bharwad (BJP,Shehra). In Vadodara,two of 13 MLAs have weapons. Mohansinh Rathwa (Congress,Pavi Jetpur) has had a gun licence since 1975 while Dinesh Patel (BJP,Padra) got his in 1993. Dhirubhai Bhil (Congress,Naswadi) got a licence in 1995 but has not yet bought a weapon. The BJP MP from Chhota Udepur,Ramsinh Rathva,too owns a gun.
15 of 26
Of Mehsana districts five MLAs,all barring Jasodaben Parmar (Jotana) have a gun: Anilbhai Patel (Mehsana),Kantibhai Patel (Vijapur),Rushikesh Patel (Visnagar) and Bharatsinhji Dabhi (Kheralu). Jayshree Patel,the woman MP,has a revolver. I have deposited my guns. I keep two guns for my safety as I have to move around in the constituency, said Kantibhai.
In Sabarkantha district,Dilipsinh Vakhatsinh Parmar (BJP,Modasa) and Ashwin Kotwal (Congress,Khedbrahma) keep guns. According to Sabarkantha police,about 500 people have submitted their firearms following the instructions of the Election Commission. Kotwal,who has given up his gun till the elections are over,agrees one should not keep guns during elections as some may misuse it to get votes. Congress MP Mukesh B Gadhvi,too,has a licenced .12-bore revolver,which he is yet to deposit. It belonged to my ancestors and has not been used during my lifetime. I dont know how to use guns, he said. District collector J B Vora said about 1,400 guns had been deposited till last week; the district has about 4,000 licences.
Of seven MLAs in Patan district,Narayan Patel (BJP,Unjha) has a revolver. District officials said there are a total of 1,200 licences; 200 weapons have been deposited. Patel says,I havent deposited my revolver and I dont think there is a need to do that. I have had a licence for 20 years but never surrendered it in four Assembly elections. I have a revolver but have never used it.
* Praful Patel,minister
* Narottam Patel,minister
* Ramanlal Vora,minister
* Jaysinh Chauhan,MoS
* Jaydhratsinh Parmar,minister
* Jasvantsinh Bhabhor,minister (2 firearms)
* Nitin Patel,minister
* Parbatbhai Patel,minister