Surat’s new social mix spells end of old ‘Ka-Kha-Ga-Gha’ political arithmetic

K for Koli Patel, Kha for Khatri, Ga for Gola and Gha for Ghanchi, this was the social fabric dominating Surat politics. Now these communities’ influence is limited to two assembly seats and in the municipal corporations area only in Kot Vistar (old city area). After 2010, in 2021 the city got an original Surati, Hemali Boghawala, as Mayor. But in the Assembly, the Suratis’ representation is shrinking and is down to three seats.

Political leaders and original Suratis feel that a time will come when the original Suratis will demand that at least the Mayor’s post should be kept reserved for them. In the assembly, even if the original Surati’s vote share is five to ten percent on a seat, it should be kept reserved for them.

That the Suratis will lose control was predicted 62 years ago. In 1960, while laying the foundation stone for the Surat Textile Market, Surat’s then MP Morarji Desai had told the Surati weavers, “if you bring textile trading to the city, sooner or later you will lose control over the textile sector,” recollects an original Surati, Rupin Patchigar, former president of the Southern Gujarat Chambers of Commerce. He says now the textile sector is controlled by Marwaris and Punjabis.

Patchigar said in 1973-74, Surat’s population was just four lakh, limited to the old city or ‘kot vistar’. Then politics was dominated by the Kolis, Khatris, Golas and Ghanchis, the original communities of the city. With each passing year, people from across the country started flooding the city, today people from 26 regions are living in the city, each having a minimum three lakh population. In 2022, the city’s population will touch 74 lakh.

Though proud that everyone landing in the Tapi city, Surat, is flourishing, it does pain that the original Suratis are in a minority now, said Patchigar.

Photo journalist Chandrakant Joshi took out a picture of early Surat. He has seen men of principle, original Suratis in Surat politics, like first Mayor Gordhandas Chokhawala, Navinchandra Bharatiya, MLAs like Patel Shambubhai, Krushnavadan Patchigar, Kashiram Rana, Jaswantsinh Chauhan, Popatlal Vyas, Thakor Patel and Usha Patel. Now, excluding Surat East, West and Choryasi, the other seven assembly seats in the city are represented by communities from other parts of the state or even the neighbouring states.

Joshi remembers that Morarji Desai being Prime Minister, whenever he visited Surat, only one member of the Pithawala family would be at the railway station to receive him. Then Mayors like Chokhawala, Bharatiya, Ramanlal Zariwala, Madanlal Bunki were easily accessible to the people, were seen on the streets. Such scenes are not common nowadays.

Those were past days and years, when Koli, Khatri, Gola and Ghanchi were ruling the city and representing the city in the state assembly and the Lok Sabha. The Gola community has a say in the Surat East seat, the Ghanchi community on the Surat West seat, the Koli community on the Choryasi seat, said Chandravadan Pithawala, social activist and educationist. Now the city politics is dominated by Patidars from Saurahstra and North Gujarat, Rajasthani, Punjabi, Marathas, Oriya, Biharis, UPites, people from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The reason for the declining original Suratis clout in politics can be attributed to nuclear family practices, the original Suratis moving out of Kot Vistar (old Surat), explained Surati Nitin Bhajiyawala, an invitee of the BJP state working committee.




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