Half of Gujaratís MLAs have guns
Gun power in politics showed itself in its ugliest form recently when Porbandar Congress MP Vitthal Radadiya, who has two firearm licences, was caught on camera brandishing a double-barrel shotgun at a Vadodara toll booth. Booth operators had asked for proof that he is an MP, a status he had cited while seeking to be excused the Rs 80 tax.
Ahead of the Assembly elections, The Indian Express has found that over half the MLAs of Gujarat ó at least 93 of 182 ó have firearm licences. Some have more than one. Eight are ministers and two are women MLAs. A woman MP, too, has a gun. Many of the MLAs have not yet deposited their firearms ahead of the elections. The code of conduct includes a rule that requires every licence holder to surrender his or her guns until the polls are over.
SAURASHTRA & KUTCH: 34 of 58
The region has a third of the 182 seats. All six MLAs of Amreli district of this region have a licence, though Lathi MLA Hanu Dhorajiya has not bought a weapon. BJP MLA from Kutiyana Karsan Dula has two licenses. Bhavnagar MLA Vibhavari Dave says, "I got my licence in 1997 when as mayor I was facing threats. I want to give it up as the environment in the state is now safe." Rajkot's Congress MP Kunvarji Bavalia feels guns are necessary for security.
SOUTH GUJARAT: 8 of 22
Congress MLA Punaji Gamit (Vyara) has had two licences for 15 years now; Prabhu Vasawa (Songadh) has had his for 10 years. Vasawa says, "I love rifles and I keep a firearm with me all the time. I am a farmer and my agricultural land is close to the forest. We take rounds of our fields around midnight and we need to protect ourselves from wild animals." Vijay Patel, BJP MLA from Dangs, runs a petrol pump and says he needs his pistol to protect his earnings. "It is risky to take the cash home and to the bank. I have had this pistol for a year now." Of Navsari district's BJP MLAs, R C Patel (Jalalpore) has a licensed revolver while Naresh Patel (Chikhli) has applied for a gun licence but is yet to get it. In Valsad district, Raman Patkar (BJP, Umargam) says he runs a hardware business, owns agricultural land and keeps a gun for self-defence. "We have got an intimation from the police and will definitely surrender our weapons," he says.