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A Breath of Fresh Hair: Gujarat’s ‘Moustache Man’ Contesting as an Independent, Vows to Encourage Stache-growing

Curling up his 2.5-feet-long moustache, Himmatnagar’s aptly named “moustache man” Maganbhai Solanki (57) is contesting as an independent candidate in this year’s Gujarat Assembly elections. His big pitch — appeal the government to encourage moustache-growing in the youth.

As Solanki sought votes from traders at a market in Himmatnagar in Sakarkantha district, a voter said “Moochein ho to inki jaisi, warna na ho,” a report by PTI on Thursday said.

Currently the Himmatnagar seat, for which Solanki is contesting, is held by a BJP candidate. Voting for Himmatnagar will be held during the second phase of elections on December 5.

Solanki retired as an honorary Lieutenant from the Army in 2012 and has been contesting elections, which he claims he loves, since the 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls.

“I was then a candidate of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). I lost but did not give up. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, I contested as an independent. This time also I am contesting as an independent,” he told PTI.

Claiming to have served at different frontiers from the west, east to the north, Solanki’s campaign pitch also involves raising issues regarding ex-service personnel.

“I have been fighting for the rights of ex-service personnel as jawans these days retire early due to policy changes. Most of them are jobless after they retire from at the age of 45-46. Earlier, the retired jawans used to get re-employed in government offices, but now that has also stopped,” he claimed.

Apart from his family members, some retired Army personnel who are his friends, are also campaigning for him.

His moustache garners attention wherever he goes, he said.

“When I was in the Army, my moustache used to attract attention as senior officers always admired it. When I am contesting elections, people get amused seeing my moustache. Children come out and try to touch it, while youngsters ask for tips on how to grow such a moustache,” he told PTI.

Solanki would urge the state government to bring a law in to encourage the youth to grow moustaches if elected, he said. “Whoever grows a moustache, the government should pay some amount for its maintenance.”

He was inspired by his father to grow a moustache and had a long one by the time he joined the army at the age of 19.

“In the Army, I got a special allowance to maintain my moustache. I was known as moochwala in my regiment. My moustache is my pride. It makes me stand out in the crowd,” he said.

Even though his opponents don’t attach much importance to his candidature, he is determined to win an election and will not give up before he does. “We were taught in the Army not to give up until the last bullet and the last drop of blood. The first time when I contested, I got 1,000 votes, the second time it was around 2,500 votes. This time I hope to improve my tally,” he said.

Himmatnagar, which is currently held by the BJP is understood to be one of the safest bet for the party, as per the report. Unemployment is a major issue and the BJP as well as Opposition Congress and AAP have have promised to bring industries to the region if voted to power.

The BJP has fielded Virendrasinh Zala from Himmatnagar, the Congress has nominated Kamleshbhai Patel, while AAP has fielded Nirmalsinh Parmar.

With around 2,80,000 voters, the Scheduled Caste comprises nearly 11 per cent, whereas the Scheduled Tribes comprise nearly three per cent, Muslims 3.2 per cent, while Patels, Rajputs, and Kshatriyas include the rest of the electorate.

Voting is underway on Thursday in the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly elections in 89 seats. The remaining 93 seats, including Himmatnagar, will go to polls on December 5.

(With PTI inputs)

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