Over the years, many community members have settled in areas such as Perambur, Anna Nagar, Red Hills, Tambaram and Velachery.
Issues such as Ram Mandir and revival of India as a “Hindu Rashtra” seem to be among the influencing factors for these non-Tamil speaking voters in three to four constituencies in the city. Their leaning towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi could sway their votes to the AIADMK camp, according to a cross-section of community members.
“The majority will vote for BJP as PM Modi is like a cult leader despite the wrong policies that hit many of our businesses,” said a 50-year-old Rajasthani businessman, on condition of anonymity. A voter in Harbour constituency, he said members of the community settled in other parts of the city shared similar sentiments.
The BJP was keen to get Harbour constituency in the AIADMK alliance and has fielded its state youth wing president Vinoj P Selvam against P K Sekhar Babu, sitting MLA of the DMK. Until 2009, many of these residents were not active voters. The Rajasthan youth association began a series of campaigns during the 2009 and 2011 elections to motivate people to exercise their franchise in the city. “We took up a campaign – Aapki taakat aapka vote’ (your vote is your strength) – and reached out not only to the Rajasthan community but also to other north Indian communities. Now, at least 70% of the people exercise their voting rights,” said Sanjay Bhansali, former president of the Rajasthan youth association.
Differing from others, Ashok G Lodha, a former national vice-president of the All India S S Jain Conference, said, “Earlier, there was a BJP wave. Now, both the national parties have an equal share of votes among the communities.” Lodha’s family has been living in Chennai for four generations.
There are at least 30,000 voters in Harbour constituency, 20,000 in Perambur constituency and 15,000 voters in Anna Nagar constituency from these communities, they said. Not just in Chennai, cities such as Coimbatore also have a small presence of Gujaratis and Rajasthanis comprising at least 3,000 voters in a few constituencies. Union minister Smriti Irani had campaigned in Sowcarpet in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
However, Sekar Babu disputes the view that the BJP has a large support base among Rajasthanis and Gujaratis in Harbour constituency. “The DMK and its ally Congress have traditional vote banks here. The Modi wave of 2016 has faded due to his poor policies such as demonetisation and GST that hit their businesses,” he said.