Ahead of polling in their respective constituencies in Saurashtra and north Gujarat, diamond workers in Surat, haling from these two regions, have started flocking back to their home to vote in the Gujarat Assembly elections. Their home return is being facilitated by BJP and Congress candidates in Saurashtra and north Gujarat, sources in the industry said.
The diamond polishers hailing from Saurashtra have started to leave the city for their native place in luxury buses from Wednesday onwards. Assembly segments in this region will go to polls in the first phase on December 9.
Over 10 lakh people work in different diamond units in Surat as artisans (polishers), and many more are involved in trading activities. A majority of diamond polishers belong to families of farmers in Saurashtra and north Gujarat.
According to the sources in the diamond industry, BJP and Congress candidates in Saurashtra and north Gujarat for their respective constituencies have prepared lists of voters working in Surat, and were facilitating their travel to home ahead of elections.
Dinesh Navadia, Gem Jewellery Export Promotion Council Gujarat chairman and ex-president of Surat Diamond Association, said, “There are over one lakh diamond polishers who are still voters from their native place in different districts of Saurashtra. During elections, they return home to cast vote after taking leave for a few days. The builder or diamond merchants, who originally belong to Saurashtra and stay in Surat, usually arrange luxury buses to help artisans reach home. After polling, they return to Surat in the buses arranged by builders or diamond merchants, who bear all expenses of the journey.”
The sources in the industry said builders or diamond merchants facilitate the journey following instructions from candidates.
Convener of a candidate of a seat in Saurashtra, requesting anonymity, said, “As per the voting list, there are over 20,000 voters in our seat who stay in Surat city. We have made arrangements through our contact in Surat… It is his responsibility to bring voters back to Saurashtra and after voting drop them back in Surat. During the journey, voters will be given food and tea by our person. He will bear all expenses.” Diamond polisher Dharmesh Patel (30), native of Gariadhar taluka in Bhavnagar district, will be returning home to participate in polling. Dharmesh, who is living in Surat for 10 years, said: “There are over 100 people who are coming with me for polling. We will return on Saturday night. My village sarpanch who is our community leader had called me and invited me to come to village and cast vote. I have taken leave for three days… Surat is our work place, but Bhavnagar is our birth place. I am happy as the village sarpanch had given me the phone number of a person to whom I contacted for the bus facility. Our sarpanch will bear all the expenses.”
As diamond polishers and others left for Gariadhar, wives and relatives of many of them joined Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s rally there.
“We returned (from Surat) a few days ago. Our husbands will join us soon. We are here to vote,” said Hansa Khumbani, a homemaker.
Pankaj Upadhya, a 53-year-old businessman who travels often between Gariadhar and Surat, said: “Many of us are here (in Adityanath’s rally) from Surat… BJP candidate Keshubhai Nakrani also shuttles between Surat and Gariadhar.We will vote for him and that is why we are all here. Around 40-50 more people will come from Surat tomorrow.”
Those who arrived early for elections were seen helping local BJP leaders in campaigning and related logistics.
As diamond polishers in Surat took went on leave en masse, Suresh Bhojani (50), a native of Amreli who runs a diamond unit at Kapodara in Surat, “There are 100 diamond polishers working in my factory and they all hail from Amreli and Bhavnagar. As many as 50 diamond polishers have informed me that they are going on leave to participate in polling. “I cannot pressure them not to go (for voting), otherwise they will leave my factory and get work somewhere else… I and my family members have voting cards from Surat, so we will cast our vote in Surat.”
(Inputs from Preeti Das)