Mumbai: Jain sadhus want the community to exploit its collective strength in the state assembly elections. They have urged Jains not to contest against one another; instead,they should vote for the same candidate.
Community leaders claim that one in five voters in Mumbai and its suburbs is a Jain. According to their estimates, of around 98 lakh voters in 36 constituencies in the city, 18-19 lakh are Jains.
The sadhus' advice, which the community usually accepts, comes amid reports that two prominent Jains may be fielded by the Congress and the BJP from the posh Malabar Hill constituency.
The BJP is believed to be considering the names of sitting MLA Mangat Prabhat Lodha, a Marwari, and Shaina NC. Surendra Savai and Rajkumar Bafna, both Jains, are believed to be in the race for the Congress ticket.
At a meeting on September 12, community leaders decided that no two Jains should contest against one another.
Savai claims to have withdrawn from the race for the Congress ticket.
"Jains and Marwaris are from the same place -- Rajasthan. Marwaris have more or less the same culture as Jains, so we do not want two members of the community to fight against each other," said Ganivarya Nai Padmasagarji Maharaj, who is the force behind the "one community one voice" campaign.
Suryodayasagar Suriswar Maharaj, a sadhu, said: "For us, the party does not matter. One who favours non-violence and respects life will get our support."
Savai said: "I was sure of getting the Congress ticket, but withdrew after the Guruji's aadesh."
Savai, who is said to be close to the Deoras, could have ruined the chances of Lodha, community members say.
Lodha is considered part of the extended Jain family. He had defeated Sushil Kumar Shinde's son-in-law Raj Shroff in the 2004 assembly polls.
It's not clear whether Bafna has also withdrawn from the race for the Congress ticket.
The community leaders say of the 2.8 lakh voters in Malabar Hill, one lakh are Jains. Besides, 40,000 to 50,000 Gujarati-Marwari voters will also support a Jain candidate, Nai Padmasagarji Maharaj said.
"Borivili, Kandivili, Vile Parle, Mira Bhayander, Ghatkopar and Sion Koliwada have a sizeable Jain population, whose votes could influence results," he said, adding that the community votes could prove decisive in at least 16 assembly segments.The Sadhus have also asked Jains in other parts of Maharashtra to not contest against one another. The Jain population in the state is pegged at around 42 lakh.