The Koli community’s demand — asking political parties, both the BJP and the Congress, to field leaders from their community in Navsari Lok Sabha seat — has now gained momentum with banners and posters demanding the same sprouting along the coastal belt of south Gujarat.
Posters asking the political parties to field a Koli leader from their constituency have been spotted at various places across the villages of Dumas, Bhimpore, Bhata among others in Navsari parliamentary area. Click for more election news
A few days ago, some of the BJP leaders and workers in Navsari district had made their representations to the BJP election observers seeking ticket for a Koli leader. In their representation, they said that the community has been supporting BJP as a result of which the party has been winning from Navsari and adjoining Lok Sabha seats in south Gujarat.
The community leaders also told them that their demand was justified since “there is not a single Member of Parliament from our community”.
This led to the BJP fielding its newly acquired Koli leader from the Congress, Kunvarji Bavaliya, to assuage the growing discontent in the community against the party.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s C R Patil had won from Navsari seat by defeating Congress’s Maksud Mirza by 5.5 lakh votes.
Kolis, which come under the Other Backward Classes (OBC), have a strong presence in Navsari and other adjoining seats. According to a rough estimate, Kolis constitute nearly 40 per cent of the electorate in Navsari Lok Sabha constituency.
“My Assembly constituency comes under Navsari parliamentary area. I have come to know that banners had been put up at various places in my constituency demanding that a Koli community leader should get the chance to contest from Navsari Lok Sabha seat in this general elections,” BJP MLA from Choryasi, Jankhana Patel, told The Indian Express.
A Koli leader himself, Jankhana Patel justified the demand, saying, “The reason is that Navsari seat has over 8 lakh Koli voters, and the community feels it strongly (to have a Koli MP). This movement is not politically motivated but it has emerged from within the community. Our sitting MP, C R Patil, has done a lot of work for the Koli community, but now the community wants their own leader. Now, it is up to the party higher ups to decide.”
Bavaliya, who toured several villages of Surat and Navsari district, urged Kolis to unite and work for the betterment of the community. While Bavaliya assured them to put forth their demand to the party leadership, he also requested them to come up with the issues facing the community so that after the elections, those could be sorted out with the state government.
But it seems that Bavaliya’s assurances have failed to cut the ice among the Koli community. Instead of waning, the demand for nominating a Koli has only reinvigorated in the area.
“We all are firm with our decision that this time a leader from the Koli community should be given ticket for Navsari seat. We are not concerned about any political party. We only want a Koli community leader, and our votes will go to Koli leader only. The movement which started from Navsari is slowly entering into different coastal villages and it is expanding among the community people. We are waiting for the announcement of candidates for Navsari seat. If no political party puts Koli community leader for Navsari seat in the Lok Sabha polls, there might be chances that some person from the community might contest as an Independent candidate,” Laxmikant Patel, a Koli community leader from Dumas, said.
Till late Friday evening, the BJP had not announced its candidate for Navsari Lok Sabha seat. Neither has the Congress. The Indian Express had earlier reported that besides sitting MP C R Patil, four leaders are in the fray for the BJP ticket. While Surat city BJP vice-president PVS Sarma has put forth his candidature, party workers belonging to Koli community had put forward names of two community leaders — BJP MLA from Jalalpore R C Patel and former MLA Karshan Patel.