Gangs and 'Bhais' to play their role in Gujarat polls

Gangs and musclemen could play a dominant role in elections in some assembly constituencies of Bhavnagar, Porbandar, the birthplace of apostle of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi, and Rajkot districts of Saurashtra region of Gujarat.

Porbandar has been a hotbed of criminal activities in recent times where late Santokben Jadeja had emerged as `Godmother'. Ganglords of Porbandar are once again are in electoral fray.

Another constituency where political power has been shaped by violent means is Gondal in Rajkot district. And Gujarat minister of state for Fisheries Purshottam Solanki, who is contesting from Bhavnagar rural seat, has courted controversy for his alleged links with the underworld.

Solanki, a dominant leader of Koli community and an accused in 1993 Mumbai communal riots, is known as ‘bhai’ among his followers. Recently, he was alleged to be involved in a Rs 400-crore fishing contract scam, for which the state Governor has given sanctions for his prosecution.

However, he has a different take on this. "Since the time you have been electing me, are you not feeling safe and free? Do you face any kind of threat or harassment from anyone?" Solanki had said when he addressed his first election rally at Haatab village after filing his nomination papers.

Congress' Leader of the Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil, belonging to Kshatriya caste, is pitted against Solanki. This is the first time they both are fighting each other.
Bhavnagar Rural has 2,20,565 voters, of whom more than 25 per cent belong to Koli community.

In the small district of Porbandar, it is virtually a fight between rival gangs to control the political leadership. Sometime in October, 2012 there was an advertisement in local papers of Porbandar which read "call me if someone calls you for extortion or demands ransom in my name."

This declaration was made by none other than Kandhal Jadeja, son of late Santokhben Jadeja, who is contesting from Kutiyana seat in Porbandar district as a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate.

"Kandhal is carrying forward the legacy of helping people not only of his caste but everyone here, a legacy which his late father Sarman Munja had started and then mother had taken it forwarded," said Kandhal’s maternal uncle.

Kandhal’s three brothers Bhoja, Sharman and Kana are handling his election campaign. Kutiyana seat has been considered a bastion for the Jadeja family. Santokhben was first elected to Taluka Panchayat from this seat and later won assembly elections with 85.92 per cent votes out of total votes cast in 1995.

On this Assembly seat, Kandhal is pitted against Karsanbhai Dulabhai Odedara whose brother and another ‘gangster’ Bhima Dula Odedara is now in jail as an accused in murder of Congress worker Mulu Modhwadia, a close aide of PCC President Arjun Modhwadia.

Modhwadia is also fighting to retain his Porbandar seat. Bhima Dula’s cousin and former BJP minister Babu Bokhiria is BJP candidate against Modhwadia. Bokhiria, who was defeated against Modhwadia in 2007, is also a suspect in Mulu Modhwadia’s murder.

If Kandhal, who is facing 18 cases of murder, attempted murder and illegal possession of firearms, is playing Robinhood, Odedaras are also allegedly involved in smuggling, extortions and murder and are considered rival of the Jadejas.

Apart from ‘Bhai’s and ‘gangs’, there is another Assembly constituency of Gondal in Rajkot district where election has been fought and won only on muscle power and has a long history of violence.

For Gondal seat, BJP has renominated Jairajsinh Jadeja, a murder accused. In 2007, Jadeja had lost the elections by a narrow margin of 414 votes against his NCP rival Chandu Vaghasia who was recently arrested in a graft case.

In this constituency, Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP), a political outfit formed by breakaway BJP dissents under the leadership of former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, has fielded its second-in-command and former BJP minister of state for home Gordhan Zadafia.

Gondal, where Patels and Kshatriyas have never lost no opportunity to resort to violence against the others, has seen elections fought on the issues of murders of Popat Sorathia, Vallabh Patel (former health minister), Nilesh Ravani, Vinu Shingala, Jayanti Vadodaria in the past.

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