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The one man Modi cannot ignore

Swati Bhan, Bhavnagar, Dec 3, 2012, DHNS: 1:15 IST
He’s known as “bhai’”amongst his followers. A nickname given to him for his Robin Hood-type image. But for the 51-year-old fisheries minister in the Narendra Modi government, this is one battle he cannot afford to lose.

Though not liked much by the chief minister, but without him he cannot woo the all- powerful Koli community which constitutes about 60,000 of the total voters in Gujarat.

Purshottam Solanki, who finds himself in the midst of a Rs 400-crore fisheries scam, is contesting from the Bhavnagar rural constituency. Pitted against the Congress strongman in the area and Leader of Opposition Shaktsinh Gohil, the contest is going to be one of the keenly watched ones in the state.

Pro-poor image

Solanki’s claim to fame has been his pro-poor image. So despite Modi’s claim of giving tickets to people with a clean image, this is one man that Modi could not avoid. The constituency has merged with several other surrounding constituencies post-delimitation.

But Solanki, who is contesting for the first time from this constituency, says he has the support of the largest number of voters who belong to his community - Koli. The constituency has a population of about two lakh.

“I am aware who has what opinion about me but that does not bother me in anyway, I am here for the people of this constituency and if voted back to power, I will be their caretaker,’’ says Solanki. He says that the community has always been suppressed by the forward castes and it is only after his win that the Kolis have got their due.

On the Rs 400 crore fisheries scam in which he has been named, Solanki says he has been framed and is not guilty unless proved.

Bhavnagar also has a large population of Kolis in the Alang ship breaking yard, which is why Solanki has been favoured for this constituency.

The constituency, which goes to the polls in the first phase on December 13, is going to be one of the keenly watched contests as it marks the political careers of both Solanki, who has a point to prove to the CM, and Gohil, who has to continue to maintain his power equations in the Congress.

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