‘Surname was Bhootwala, but caste Modi’ — BJP MLA behind Rahul defamation suit changed name in 1988
Mumbai: Purnesh Modi, the BJP legislator on whose complaint Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was convicted and sentenced in a defamation case, said his surname was ‘Bhootwala’ earlier, but even then he was part of Gujarat’s larger Modi community by caste.
Modi had filed a criminal defamation complaint against Rahul in a Surat court for allegedly defaming the Modi community at a 2019 rally in Karnataka. At the poll rally in Kolar, Rahul had said that “all thieves have Modi as the common surname,” taking the names of Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi and PM Narendra Modi in the same breath.
His clarification on change of surname comes in the wake of the defence lawyer’s argument in the court that the complainant is not a ‘Modi’ as his earlier surname was ‘Bhootwala,’ which he later changed to Modi.
Rahul was on Friday disqualified as MP following his conviction in the case.
“The Teli community has a population of 13 crore spread across India and with different surnames. In Rajasthan, they are known as the Ghanchis. In Gujarat, they are the Modis,” the BJP MLA from Surat West, a former Gujarat minister also, told ThePrint.
“In our community, people’s last names are mostly based on the work they do. There is a Lapsiwala, Dalwala, Chhonkhwala, Kadhiwala and so on. My ancestors were named after the mohalla (neighbourhood) they lived in,” he said, adding that his ancestors lived at Bhoot Seri in Surat, and hence, his family came to be known as the ‘Bhootwalas.’
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‘Changed last name in 1988′
As per Purnesh Modi’s submission to the Surat court hearing the case, a copy of which is with ThePrint, he changed his last name in 1988.
Modi also submitted his school leaving certificate to the court, which stated ‘Bhootwala’ as his last name and mentioned the caste as ‘Modi Ghanchi.’
Modi is the name of a community whose origins are nomadic, and whose members eventually got into the oil-making business and are settled across Gujarat. The community got the Other Backward Classes (OBC) tag in 1994.
Purnesh Modi’s complaint not only led to the Surat court handing out a two-year sentence to Rahul, but also the Congress leader’s disqualification as an MP a year before the Lok Sabha election.
However, Purnesh Modi maintains his complaint wasn’t political. He was an office bearer of Gujarat’s Modi samaj (community) and after Rahul’s remarks in Karnataka, members of the community came together, discussed and decided to lodge a complaint, the BJP MLA said.
“The complaint was as a member of the community, though everyone is giving it a political nature now,” Modi said. “It is not about our victory, or defeat. It is about this country’s social fabric. It is not right to relate to the entire community.”
(Edited by Geethalakshmi Ramanathan)