More than 30,000 fishermen in Gujarat are caught in a dilemma -- to vie for a "good catch" or vote in the assembly polls. Fishermen from 10 assembly constituencies, spread across coastal Gujarat, will be fishing deep into the Arabian Sea when the voting will take place and are unlikely to return home in time to exercise their franchise. Jiten Modi, a 25-year-old resident of Valsad, is one such fishermen. The scarcity of fish near the shores forces fishermen to venture deep into the sea and remain there for 15-20 days for a good catch. This means Jiten Modi and many more like him will not be able to vote in the assembly elections. Most of the fishermen hail from the Kharava community, which is spread across the coastal region of the state. The Kharavas have their headquarters in Porbandar where the members of the community visit to take part in social and cultural events. Bharatbhai Modi, a leading figure in the fishermen community in Porbandar, admitted a sizeable section of voters from the community would give voting a miss. "Earlier, we used to sail for 4-5 days and return home. In the last few years, we have to sail for at least 15 days to get a good catch. If the catch is less than two tonnes, it is hardly beneficial. Hence, every boat spends maximum time in the sea to get a good catch," he said. This is not going to happen in Porbandar alone, but in at least 10 assembly segments across the coast of Gujarat. This is the season when we get some good catch, he said. Bharatbhai Modi estimated that some 30,000 fishermen- are likely to give polling booths a miss when the coastal areas vote on December 9 in the first phase. Prahlad Adodara, who had cast his vote in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, will not be able to do so this time around. "I had (then) taken leave so I could vote.
Summer is also a good season for us to get more catch. I don't think I will be able to vote (in assembly polls) as my boat is getting ready," he said. Manesh Doshi, a spokesperson of the Gujarat Congress, said the party does not want to lose out on fishermen's vote as it is posing a stiff challenge to the BJP this time and needs their support. "We are expecting a neck-and-neck contest and absence of a couple of thousand voters will have a crucial (impact on results)," Doshi said. Asked about the party's efforts to convince them to stay back and vote, he said, "We have approached them but their excuse is genuine. It is a season for fishermen and they need to go. But, we have appealed to them to adjust their plans and exercise their right to vote." Raju Druv, a state BJP spokesperson, said, "This time overall voter turnout is likely to be more than the previous election. "This may help us to overcome the impact of some voters missing the polling day. We are taking efforts to mobilise more and more people to increase the polling percentage.