Rajkot: Apparently keeping the ‘caste factor’ in mind, opposition Congress has fielded three candidates from the Koli (fisherman) community for Rajkot, Surendranagar and Bhavnagar seats in Saurashtra and Kutch regions.
Sitting MP Kunvarji Bavaliya, Soma Koli and Pratap Rathod have been given tickets by the Congress for Rajkot, Surendranagar and Bhavnagar constituencies respectively that have a strong Koli presence.
As per the official figures, with a population of two lakh, Kolis form the second largest community after the Leuva Patels (3.25 lakh) in Rajkot, while in Surendranagar, they are the largest caste cluster with 4.75 lakh population, followed by Dalits (2.7 lakh).
In Bhavnagar also, the fisherman community tops the population chart with 2.8 lakh members, followed by the Kshatriyas (1.8 lakh).
However, when asked, the Congress as well as the ruling BJP maintained that “caste factor” was not the reason behind the selection of candidates.
“People do not believe in caste while voting as they just want the candidate to be available for them round the clock,” Bavaliya said.
“I had been easily available to people in the last five years and I had raised several issues with the state as well as the cental government,” Bavaliya said and expressed confidence that he would retain the seat.
Bavaliya is only the second candidate, whom the party has given the Lok Sabha ticket for the second consecutive time after a span of 25 years in Rajkot. Earlier, Ramaben Mavan had contested the parliamentary polls twice in 1984 and 1989.
Bavaliya, who has strong network in rural areas, had defeated BJP’s Kiran Patel in the last election.
When asked about the “Modi factor”, Bavaliya alleged, “Modi has misguided people from the very first term when he contested Assembly election from Rajkot and became Chief Minister.
At that time, he had promised that he would solve Rajkot’s drinking water problem, but after a decade, the problem is yet to be resolved.”
Pravin Rathod from Bhavnagar is the lone candidate in Saurashtra region, who has been elected by party workers after the primaries (internal elections).