Gujarat election: Will the change of mood reflect in poll results in Kutch?

The mood in Kutch is aggressively against present govt. We travelled far into the interiors but the same sentiment was expressed even when the language changed from Gujarati to Kutchi

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Gauhar Raza

I have travelled extensively through out Gujarat, and witnessed how true the age old proverb ‘Kos, kos par pani badle, char kose par vani’ is. Historians tell us that Kose is an ancient measure of distance. It was widely used in Indian subcontinent till very recently. One kose is approximately equal to 3 kilometres.

The proverb can be roughly be translated as ‘the quality of water changes every three kilometres and language (accent) changes every 12 kilometres’. This, in my opinion, applies to every culture. In India, if you travel by road and stop frequently, at roadside Dhabas, for a cup of tea and chat with the local residents you are bound to notice the gradual change of accent and taste of food provided your taste buds and eardrums are sensitive enough.

However, geographical distance is not the only determinant of change in ‘taste of water and language’. If you travel through caste, religious and economic boundaries, the changes are far more pronounced even within a city, a town or a village. And these changes hit all your senses (including touch, vision and smell). This is as true for Gujarat as any other state in the country. Most of those, who visited Gujarat for a short period, on business trips, during the past 15 years, did not want to see this part of reality. They were not interested in poverty, filth, dilapidated houses, broken roads, overflowing gutters, rampant corruption, increasing malnutrition, high rate of school and college drop-out, widespread unemployment and shattered structure of health system. They were only interested in riverfront, malls, smooth highways, FDI, temples and spiritual encounters with their very personal gurus. They took back success stories of Ambanis, Adanis, Tata Nano, even a khakhda and phaphda producing lady was converted into a demi-goddess. They dreamt of a deliverer, a magician and hero from a Hindi film, who could deliver emotional dialogs with conviction. Across the political spectrum only one person fitted the bill, he could roar, he could cry, he could be extremely communal, castist and hateful, he could tell lies with firm conviction, he could sell dreams of development and when situation demanded he could be as crude as a pedestrian goon.

Those who wanted a communal, violent and angry man at the helm of affairs were looking for excuses to support him. The mafia team, headed by his long time lackey, who specialised in fake encounter and creating an atmosphere of fear, was seen as his strength. More than 30 police officers were put behind the bars, in Gujarat by the court, was of no concern to highly communalised middle class. After all, mafia represents efficiency and quick results as well. Eager to become rich, overnight, the middle class willingly consumed the absurd dream of ₹15 lakh getting deposited into their bank account. No doubt it was a big sum, and living in a dream world was far better than reality around them. The dream was also sold to the poorest of the poor.

The entire RSS parivar, which has mastered rumour mongering and ways of spreading lies during the past 90 years of its existence, was at its best after 2002. Corporate controlled Puppet-Media (now known as Godi-Midia), for the last fifteen years, just showed what it was paid to show by its masters. And thus the reality of Gujarat remained a victim of meticulously concocted fictitious ‘Gujarat Model’ and ‘Achhe Din’. There were never Achhe Din in Gujarat for a common citizen and the real Gujarat Model of development for the past 22 years never included the poor.

When members of ‘Lokshahi Bachao Abhiyan’ had planned to visit various regions and constituencies in Gujarat, it was decided that, as far as possible, we would avoid meeting political and community leaders. We will directly meet people in small groups, distribute pamphlets and discuss the onslaught of fascism and its dangers. In the second round of visit, three of us teamed up to cover west coastal districts of Gujarat and decided to go up till Kutch. Uves Bhai volunteered to drive us in his new car.

All coastal districts of Gujarat, for obvious reasons, have a substantial population of citizens, traditionally involved in fishing trade. They are known as ‘Machhimaar’ community. These districts had not been affected by the 2002 carnage. In southern part of this belt, (in districts such as Somnath, Mangrol, Verawal, and Porbandar) both Hindus and Muslims are fishermen. But as you move towards north and enter Kutch the percentage of Hindus involved in this business reduces to zero, gradually. Friends had informed us that in Kutch, in the past elections, Muslim fishing community has been voting for BJP candidates. I wanted to specifically talk to members of the community and find out what is the present political mood.

On our way, at roadside teashops, the anger against GST and ‘Notebandi’ revealed itself in mild as well as strong words, repeatedly. On route, we met a large number of Gujaratis and deliberately talked to them about the political issues, though I do not understand Gujarati language, the gradual change in accent was quite evident at every proverbial ‘4 Kos’. Unlike Panjabis, UP walas or Biharis, Gujaratis are soft-spoken people and tend to avoid any disagreement during conversation. When we asked who would make the next government, invariably the answer was noncommittal. But when we asked about impact of Notebandi or GST, the prompt angry reply was ‘Dhanda Chaupat Thai Gayo’ (business is completely destroyed). Unlike previous elections, when every Gujarati I had met said BJP will win a clear majority, this time there was not a single one who said that they will come to power.

In Mandvi and Mundra, we spent most of the time among Machhimaar community. They were all Muslims. We were holding meetings in small groups. It was visibly clear the so-called Gujarat Model had not touched their localities. Lanes were unclean, gutters were overflowing and residents looked unhealthy. Their complains were simple but endless, ‘sewage system is blocked at many places but municipality workers do not come here’, ‘Our boys do not get ID cards so they cannot go for fishing’, ‘our new fiberglass boats have not been registered for three years, we have invested huge sums but cannot use them for fishing.’

I asked them ‘but you voted for BJP and they have been in Government for 22 years, did you raise these issues with BJP leaders?’. The answer was quite revealing, one of the young talkative boy said ‘yes, we had gone to the local BJP leader, he said we had purchased your vote, you got your money for voting us to power, what are you complaining about now, why are you troubling us’. The boy was angry and said ‘we have learnt our lesson, we will not accept money from any one this time, we will teach them a lesson, this time all Gujaratis are against them, we are not alone’. Then he calmed down and added, ‘please do something about EVMs’. I did not know how to respond.

The mood in Kutch is aggressively against present government. We travelled far more than ‘4 kos’ but the mood did not change, same sentiment was expressed even when the language changed from Gujarati to Kutchi. The direction of political wind has turned around by 180 degrees, everywhere. But I wonder, will EVMs, once again, vote for BJP? Will the trickster once again, be able to subvert the Indian democracy?

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