Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, Koli leaders in Gujarat on Monday urged people of their community to unite and back Koli candidates instead of any party.
At the Koli Samaj Sammelan held at Jiyav Budhiya village in Surat district, where Koli leaders from different parts of the state were present, it was decided to urge people of the community to no allow their votes to be divided so that more Koli leaders are elected “so that they would get a platform to raise the voice of the community”.
The move by the Koli community leaders comes in the wake of their demand of fielding a Koli candidate in the seats-dominated by them, especially in Navsari in south Gujarat. Ahead of the nomination process, Koli leaders had put up banners and posters across Navsari and parts of Surat demanding that people from their community be given tickets. While the Congress has fielded a Koli candidate in Navsari — Dharmesh Patel — the BJP, on the other hand, has decided to remominate sitting MP C K Patil, who has his roots in Maharashtra.
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“Our community had demanded ticket from BJP and Congress for our community leader. The BJP denied our proposal, but the Congress accepted our proposal. Now, the time has come to decide which party will get our votes. We want our community to get united so that the problems and development works of our community can be done,” Koli leader Mohanbhai Patel said in his speech at the meeting at Jiyav Budhiya village.
A day ago, a similar meeting of Koli leaders was held at Navsari town. Though the leaders claimed that meeting was non-political in nature, the president of Akhil Bhartiya Koli Samaj, Gujarat, Chandravadan Pithawala, and other leaders at the meeting reportedly appealed their community “to get united and support the Koli candidate to whichever party he or she belongs”.
This would come as a bad news for the BJP, which have been persistently wooing the OBC community in the wake of Patidar quota agitation. Recently, the BJP has been successful in weaning away several senior Koli politicians of the Congress, the most important of them being Kunvarji Bavaliya, who was made a Cabinet-rank minister within hours of him quitting the party.
Kolis, who are mostly engaged in fishing, could play a significant role in determining the outcome in at least five Lok Sabha constituencies: two in south — Navsari, where around 40 per cent of voters belong to Koli community, and Surat; and three in Saurahstra — Surendranagar, Bhavnagar and Junagadh.
“Koli people have been committed voters of the BJP in Navsari for the last 35 years, but still the community has been left behind in terms of leadership. The time has come to make our community people aware, and we are carrying out sammelans (meetings) in Koli-dominated areas of Navsari,” said Chandravadan Pithawala of Akhil Bhartiya Koli Samaj.