Surat’s ‘Ka-Kha-Ga-Gha’ political arithmetic no longer holds water

The reason for the decline of the original influence of the Suratis in politics can be attributed to the practices of the nuclear family

Sura: K for Koli Patel, Kha for Khatri, Ga for Gola and Gha for Ghanchi, it was the social fabric that dominated the politics of Surat. Now, the influence of these communities is limited to two assembly seats and in the municipal corporation area only in Kot Vistar (Old Town area).

Original Suratis

After 2010, the city got an original Surati, Hemali Boghawala, as mayor in 2021. But in the Assembly, Surati representation is decreasing and has fallen to three seats.

The political leaders and the native Surati believe that a time will come when the native Surati will demand that at least the position of mayor be reserved for them. In the assembly, even if Surati’s original vote share is five to ten percent on a seat, it should be reserved for them.

Suratis losing control was predicted 62 years ago. In 1960, while laying the foundation stone of Surat’s textile market, Morarji Desai, then Member of Parliament for Surat, said to the weavers of Surati: “If you bring the textile trade to the city, sooner or later you will lose the control of the textile sector,” recalls a Surati native, Rupin Patchigar, former president of the South Gujarat Chambers of Commerce.

He says that now the textile sector is controlled by Marwaris and Punjabis.

Population of Surat

Patchigar said that in 1973-74 the population of Surat was only four lakh, restricted to the old city or ‘kot vistar’. Then politics was dominated by the Kolis, Khatris, Golas and Ghanchis, the original communities of the city.

Every year, people from all over the country started flooding the city. Today, people from 26 regions live in the city, each with a population of at least three lakh. In 2022, the population of the city will touch 74 lakh.

While proud that all who land in Tapi town, Surat are thriving, it is painful that the native Surati are now in the minority, Patchigar said.

Surah in ancient times

Photojournalist Chandrakant Joshi took a photo of early Surat. He saw principled, original Suratis in Surat politics like First Mayor Gordhandas Chokhawala, Navinchandra Bharatiya, MPs 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 seats of the city assembly are represented by communities from other parts of the state or even neighboring states.

Joshi recalls Morarji Desai being Prime Minister, whenever he visited Surat, only one Pithawala family member was at the 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 these days.

New municipal policy

Those were days and years past, when Koli, Khatri, Gola and Ghanchi ruled the city and represented the city in the state assembly and the Lok Sabha.

“Gola community has a say in Surat East seat, Ghanchi community in Surat West seat, Koli community in Choryasi seat,” said social activist and educator Chandravadan Pithawala.

Today, the politics of the city is dominated by the Patidars of Saurahstra and North Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjabi, Marathas, Oriya, Biharis, UPites, people of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

The reason for the declining political influence of the Native Suratis can be attributed to the nuclear family practices, with the Native Suratis leaving Kot Vistar (Old Surat), explained Surati Nitin Bhajiyawala, a guest of the working committee of the BJP State.

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