Pitted against Gohil, Solanki talks of Kolis’ safety

Parshottam Solanki

The "safety" of Kolis — the single largest caste group in Gujarat — was stressed upon as community leader and state fisheries minister Parshottam Solanki kick-started his election campaign in Bhavnagar on Sunday.

Solanki will be facing Congress Legislative Party chief and Kshatriya leader Shaktisinh Gohil while contesting for the Bhavnagar Rural seat.

"You have been electing me since the last three terms. There has been an atmosphere of peace and freedom. Do you now face any kind of torture from anyone," Solanki told a gathering at Koli-dominated Haatab village in his first election gathering after filing his nomination a day ago.

"Do you now need to call me (for protection)? Aren't you free of all problems?" Solanki said without naming any community or a person.

In the Bhavnagar rural constituency, there are an estimated 2.2 lakh voters, nearly one lakh of whom are Kolis while there are around 60,000 Kshatriyas.

BJP leader Rajnath Singh, who was chief guest at the function, also did not miss to drive home the point while seeking votes for Solanki. "If there is anyone who can ensure the safety of the people, it is him (Solanki). Wherever he gets elected, he will ensure that people are safe," he said.

BJP MP from the region Rajendrasinh Rana, a Kshatriya, said, "Wherever 'bhai' is elected, there will be safety and growth."

In the last three Assembly elections since 1998, Solanki (currently embroiled in a Rs 400-crore fishing contracts scam) has been winning from Gogha by huge margins. In the 2007 elections, he had garnered almost 62% of the votes polled in Ghogha defeating his nearest rival from the Congress by over 34,000 votes.

Gohil, who enjoys a substantially following among the Kshatriyas, had fought the 2007 elections from Bhavnagar South. He had defeated BJP candidate Jitu Vaghani by 7,000 votes and was the only Congress candidate to win from Bhavnagar district.

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