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We want our seat-share in Mumbai: Gujarati community

Launching the Gujarati Ekta Abhiyaan to unite the Gujarati community in Mumbai...

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai |
September 21, 2009 2:05:53 am

Launching the Gujarati Ekta Abhiyaan to unite the Gujarati community in Mumbai, businessman-turned-politician Viren Shah on Saturday asked political parties to give the community at least 25 per cent of the party tickets in Mumbai.

“Out of the 36 Assembly seats in Mumbai,only four elected MLAs are Gujaratis,while 30 per cent of the total voters in Mumbai are Gujaratis. It is only logical when we demand that at least 25 per cent of the candidates fielded by a political party should be Gujaratis,” said Shah.

The movement,that presently has members from over hundred Gujarati organizations and associations of Mumbai,put forward its demands on Saturday. “Though Gujaratis contribute to the economy immensely and also form a huge chunk of voters,a lot of problems related to the Gujarati community are not addressed by our politicians. We are aiming at creating a strong Gujarati votebank so that our voice is heard and our problems are solved,” Shah said.

Shah,owner of Roopam and Roopmilan textile showrooms,shot to fame last year when his Federation of Retail Traders and Welfare Association (FRTWA) opposed the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s diktat to all shops and establishments asking them to put up Marathi signboards outside the shops.

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The movement has now identified major problems faced by the Gujaratis like the decline of Gujarati language,closure of Gujarati medium schools,levying of octroi etc. Members feel that only a Gujarati politician can understand and solve these issues and have therefore decided that all Gujaratis should only vote for a Gujarati candidate.

“If there is no Gujarati candidate in the constituency,Gujaratis should vote for a competent candidate. But if there is a Gujarati candidate,we should vote only for him,” Shah added.

Also present at the meeting were BJP leader Kirit Somaiya,Mukesh Gandhi from the NCP who is also a part of the movement,actors Paresh Rawal and Sarita Joshi and heads of the various Gujarati associations like Juhu Jagruti Mandal,Parle Kelawani,etc. “Gujaratis need to be united when they go out and vote. In the last Assembly elections,I lost because Gujaratis did not come out and vote for me,” Somaiya said.

Some of the other demands of the group include Gujarati as an optional subject for Gujarati students in Mumbai schools and scrapping the octroi. “Mumbai is the only city that still collects octroi despite the introduction of the value added tax (VAT). Gujaratis suffer the most because 85 per cent of our community is into trade and manufacturing,” Mukesh Gandhi said.

When asked whether such decisions can create separatist tendencies in the society,Shah said,“If Maharashtrians vote only for Maharashtrians,we should do the same. We will only vote for a Gujarati-speaking candidate,including Muslim Boris and Parsis.”

About his political ambitions,Shah said,“I did not ask for a ticket this time because I thought it is too early. I can’t say anything about the next elections. Also,we are planning to make the movement into a full fledged organization by including more people,” Shah added.

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