Loksabha election

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Maharashtra poll: Gujaratis left neglected by Marathi focus

Maharashtra poll: Gujaratis left neglected by Marathi focus

MUMBAI: Fear of losing Marathi votes, thanks to Raj Thackeray's hate campaign against the north Indians in Maharashtra has left the 40-lakh
strong Gujarati community in Mumbai completely ignored by all political parties. There are just two candidates from the community in Mumbai, one from Congress and the other from BJP. Earlier, the Gujaratis were used to be a back-bone of BJP. But the party, this time appears more interested in winning over Mumbai's Hindi-speaking people than the Gujaratis, thanks again to the MNS.

"Because of the MNS the Sena is forced to concentrate on Marathi votes. It can't be seen wooing the north Indians. That job now has been left to us," a BJP leader said. The party has fielded four north Indian candidates in Mumbai while only one from the Gujarati community, Prakash Mehta, has been given another chance. This is said to be a conscious move by BJP to make up for its alliance partner Shiv Sena's concentration on Marathi manoos.

But the move does not seem to have gone down well with the trader community. BEST committee chairman Pravin Chheda from the Gujarati-dominated Ghatkopar, unhappy at being denied a ticket, had even staged a dharna while senior leader Jaywantiben Mehta is also said to be unhappy. However, ex-MLA and BJP's south Mumbai district president Atul Shah attributes the decline of Guajaratis among party candidates to delimitation. "Many seats with strong Gujarati vote banks have been merged with other areas which has resulted in some seats losing its Gujarati domination," he says.

Not everyone is convinced, though. Viren Shah, founder of Gujarati Ekta Samiti is of the opinion that MNS and Shive Sena's campaign has resulted in the polarization of North Indian votes which resulted in the Gujarati community being ignored. "Gujarati community needs to come together to build their own vote bank like other migrants," said Mr Shah.

Kishor Kharawala, an executive member of BJP's Trade and Industry Cell and also a Secretary of Federation of Association of Maharashtra (FAM) says that party has committed a big mistake by not giving tickets to Gujratis. "This is the time when Gujaratis and Marwaris should come to-gather as a "business-buddies" in politics rather than keeping themselves away from each other," said Mr Kharawala.

Secretary of Bombay Sub-urban Grain Dealers Association, Chandrakant Gala feels that Gujarati community traditionally stays with BJP- Sena coalition, but since this time community dose not get enough representation here. They might change their loyalty in some pockets like Ghatkopar, Mulund etc, where they have decisive voting capacity.

A NCP leader has a different take. "Despite being the same size as North ndians, Gujarati voters are not disciplined, lack enthusiasm and do not ote en mass. This is the major reason why community leaders are not getting s much tickets as their other migrant counter parts," said Hemraj Shah, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) spokseperson and president of Bruhad Mumbai Gjarati Samaj.

Whatever the cause be, it has affected the Gujratis.

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