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Phansiwala hopes to win Bharuch

Mohammadbhai Phansiwala ? it conjures up images of a cold-blooded colonial hangman, noose in hand.
PTI | By Chandan Nandy, Bharuch
UPDATED ON APR 12, 2004 01:48 PM IST

Mohammadbhai Phansiwala — the name conjures up images of a cold-blooded colonial hangman, noose in hand. And for the Congress candidate for this LS constituency in a state which till a few months back was in the grip of communal frenzy, it needs some bravery to continue with that surname.

But then Phansiwala has opted to use the sobriquet "of his own free will" despite all the jokes about its "evil connotations". Indeed, he takes pride in it. "During the 1857 rebellion, my grandfather's father was hanged by the British although he had not committed any crime. Since then, the nickname has stuck in my family and now I use it more as a surname. Everyone knows me here by this name," says Phansiwala.

At 67, the genial and gentle Phansiwala is making his first attempt to make it to the LS. He was twice elected MLA from Bharuch and is now chairman of the town's market committee. A philanthropist, Phansiwala has been the prime mover in the construction of a school and promises to set up a university in Bharuch, if elected. He also runs the 125-bed Patel Welfare Hospital. Phansiwala says his "real brother" - Adambhai — is Lord Patel of Blackburn and "Tony Blair's emissary". And that his "real uncle", Solly Essop, was a member of the South African Parliament.

"My uncle's son was also an MP in South Africa and is now vice-chairman of that country's housing board," Phansiwala says. But will the family lineage help him win the contest against the BJP's Hansmukhbhai Vasava and Chhotu Vasava, the Janata Dal (United) candidate?

"Kudrat fateh degi (God will ensure my victory)," Phansiwala says. The issues central to his campaign are communal harmony, education, health and the development of Bharuch.

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