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Churn among migrant voters in Gujarat’s ‘mini-India’

Since the 2002 elections, the BJP has won every single seat in the 16 Assembly segments in Surat district.

Published: 01st December 2017 07:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st December 2017 07:28 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

AHMEDABAD/SURAT: Selling chai in a narrow lane in Pandesara industrial area in Surat, Munna Tiwari is all ears as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s speech plays out on TV.  ‘’We are remembered only during election time. Our votes are very important for political parties — be it BJP or Congress,’’ smiles Munna as he brews more tea.

‘’I had come here looking for a job and ended up selling tea. Back home in Deoria (UP), there was nothing I could do to earn a livelihood. I joined a textile unit here but due to demonetisation and the subsequent cash crunch, I was not being paid and had to quit. Then I started this chai shop. I am just about managing two square meals a day for my family,’’ says Munna, who holds the view that the poor should vote only for the party that would work for their benefit.

‘’All the talk of dynasty politics, corruption, religion or developing economy means nothing to people like us. We need jobs and two square meals a day,’’ he adds. As the BJP and the Congress engage in a slugfest in poll-bound Gujarat, migrant voters across the state, particularly Surat, are being wooed like never before. The city is home to nearly 15 lakh migrants. It is referred to as a ‘mini India’. There are over 10 lakh migrant voters, many of them first-time voters.

They say that this time around, they would not give into mere propaganda and would only back the party that would work for their benefit. Many of the migrants work in textile mills, dyeing and printing units and diamond-polishing outlets.

“In 2014, we simply went by the wave and the prevailing mood. This time, we have collectively decided to think, assess and then vote,” says Ghanshyam, a small trader from Ballia in UP. “Most of our family members are still angry with demonetization and GST.”  

Since the 2002 elections, the BJP has won every single seat in the 16 Assembly segments in Surat district. In the 2015 municipal polls, however, the Congress fared better than usual, though the BJP won the polls.

Apart from migrants from UP and Bihar, there are a large number of Oriyas who work as textile workers in Surat. “Most Odiyas are from poor districts like Kendrapada, Baleshwar and Ganjam. Life is tough here, but better than in our home state,” says Jagadish Jena, a trader from Odisha settled in Surat.

“But living conditions have not improved much though workers are able to save some money. We are not sure which party to vote for. We are waiting,” he adds. The case seems slightly different with the close to 6 lakh Telugus in the state. “Most Telugus are into textile business. Telugus generally prefer to vote for the leading party in the state. They go with the prevailing wave,’’ says PVPC Prasad from Vijayawada who works in the town planning department.     

Ahmedabad-based political analyst Abhishek Jignani says winning votes of migrants will not be easy this election. “We have the demonetisation and GST effect as well this time. I don’t think it is going to be easy for any party to woo the migrants.”

Migrant voters in industrial hub

Surat, referred to as ‘mini India’, is home to nearly 15 lakh migrants. Of them, over 10 lakh are voters
Since 2002, BJP has won every single seat of the 16 Assembly segments in Surat

There are close to 6 lakh Telugus across Gujarat, of which nearly 2.5 lakh reside in Surat. There are close to 2 lakh Telugu voters in the state, hailing mostly from Medak, Warangal, Mahabubnagar and Karimnagar districts of Telangana and Srikakulam, Vijayawada, Vizianagaram, East and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh

There are six Odiya medium primary schools and equal number of Telugu schools run by the Surat Municipal Corporation



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