A year ago Narendra Modi didn’t think that the 13-year old Koli girl he was felicitating would cause him concern in the elections.
Poonam Vinjavadiya, who was allegedly raped and murdered in May this year, has had the entire Koli community rallying together against the government for failing to catch her killers. The girl, better known as Chandni, has turned the ardent supporters into BJP baiters.
“Narendrabhai personally felicitated my daughter when she won an essay competition on women’s empowerment. We want justice for our daughter and fail to understand why the government has not been able to catch the perpetrators,” says Chandni’s father Ramjibhai.
“Kolis have not been given adequate representation by any government in Gandhinagar. The death and subsequent mishandling of the case by the police and the administration shows how concerned the Koli leadership and the BJP government is about the community’s welfare,” said Narsibhai Mandviya, who runs an educational trust for Kolis in Junagadh.
Kolis form 22 per cent of the population but have remained underrepresented sending only 26 MLAs to the Assembly.
Kolis within the BJP also complain of the government’s inability to reach out to them. They had forced Koli leader and minister Purshottam Solanki to resign from the cabinet. Solanki, however, was later convinced by Modi to stay on.
“The community has been severly anatgonised by the government’s inability to catch Chandni’s killer, even when their identity has been disclosed. The Koli community is not going to vote for the BJP this time,” says Aashok Makwana, BJP corporator from Junagadh.
With leaders from the Congress, including Sonia Gandhi, using Chandni’s name to lure voters, the Vinjavadiya family is troubled by the politics being played over their daughter. “We lost our daughter, she might have played a part in unifying the community. But it pains me to see politics being played in the name of my dead daughter,” says her mother Beenaben from their Anand Nagar colony home.