These candidates say ‘Majha Gujarat’
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Marathis contest a few assembly seats in neighbouring state.
Housewife Sangita Patil (42) spent the last few weeks campaigning in the lanes and bylanes of Surat.
She is among a handful of Marathi candidates contesting the December 13 assembly election in South Gujarat.
Surat, Valsad, Navsari and Dang in South Gujarat and Vadodara have large pockets of Marathi-speaking people who have close family ties with border areas of Maharashtra such as Thane, Nandurbar and Dhule.
Originally from Bhadgaon taluka in Maharashtra, Sangita shifted to Surat after marriage in 1995.
Over the years, she picked up Gujarati, started NGO Modi Samarthak Mahila Mandal and participated in BJP work.
Hailing from a political family — her uncle and sister-in-law are sarpanchs in Maharashtra — Patil always nursed the ambition to contest elections.
As the BJP candidate from Limbayat - an area dominated by Maharashtrians and Muslims — she has been addressing rallies in Marathi and sometimes in Gujarati.
"I used to work with women in the region and always wanted to contest elections. I was in touch with locals through my NGO and am confident of winning," says Patil, in chaste Marathi.
Her opponent from Congress is Marathi-speaking former councilor Suresh Sonavane. The local BJP MP from Navsari too is a Maharashtrian. In South Gujarat, Marathi voters play a decisive role in almost 17 of 35 seats.
In Surat city, seven of 12 seats have a predominant Marathi population.
Gujarat and Maharashtra have close business and cultural ties, as the two states were part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency.
So close and long-standing are their ties, Marathi speakers in Gujarat are not considered migrants, said a leader.
Leaders from Gujarat, including Chief Minister Narendra Modi, have campaigned in Maharashtra.