The state of Gujarat is all set to witness assembly elections this year. After witnessing the thumping victory in four of the five states in the assembly elections concluded a few months back, the Bharatiya Janata Party is now eyeing Gujarat. It has already begun its preparations to storm back to power in the state. In one such move, it is working around the clock to ensure that Patidars, unlike in previous elections, turn into a loyalist of the BJP this time. The efforts seem to be coming to fruition as the recent development suggests that Patidars are going to be BJP’s biggest vote bank in Gujarat Assembly elections.
Why Patidars votes are important
The Gujarat Assembly election 2017 results suggested a clear victory for the BJP. The BJP formed the government in Modi’s home state for the sixth consecutive time. Although BJP surged ahead in the 2017 assembly elections, Congress managed to encash a decent number of votes. While BJP won total 99 seats, Congress too managed to win 77 seats in the state.
Why, you may ask? Patidars showing their resentment to BJP did not vote in favour of them, the OBC community stood by its side and ensured its victory in 2017. Ever since Anandiben Patel resigned in 2016 and Vijay Rupani was inducted as the CM, the resentment among the Patidars towards the BJP in the state became quite visible.
Patidars as a caste group is one of the most affluent. They do not vote en masse for one party unlike Yadavs in Bihar or the Muslim vote banks. Given the fact that they have not been a loyalist to any party, it is time for the BJP to try everything in their might to encash votes from the BJP.
It is pertinent to note that in the politics of Gujarat, the Patidar community holds a strong position and thus it is said that this particular community has the power to hand over the victory to any party. They form around 12 per cent of the total over 6 crore population in the state. Around 15 per cent population of many assembly constituencies belongs to the Patidar community and could directly influence the electoral outcome.
BJP’s attempts to encash Patidar votes
On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Gujarat to inaugurate projects, including the KD Parvadiya hospital, a multi-speciality facility built by a Patidar group, at Atkot village in Rajkot district.
His visit to Gujarat to inaugurate a project built by a Patidar group can be seen as an effort by PM Modi to woo the Patidar community. The particular community was feeling alienated ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections. Notably, six out of the 17 events that Modi addressed in his home state since March were organised by groups with strong links to the Patidar community.
On April 15, PM Modi virtually inaugurated K K Patel Super Speciality hospital in Bhuj built by a Patidar organisation, Shri Kutch Leuva Patel Education & Medical Trust.
On April 29, PM Modi virtually addressed Gujarat Patidar Business Summit, 2022, organised by Sardardham, a Patidar organisation.
Earlier as reported by TFI in 2021, Bhupendra Patel replaced Vijay Rupani as the new Chief Minister of the state last year. Moreover, the induction of seven ministers from the Patidar community was also done as it will be beneficial for the party in the upcoming elections of Gujarat.
With such a move, the BJP high command had played the Patidar card which further will strengthen the position of the party in the state.
Hardik Patel softening his instance
Congress is not a fringe party in Gujarat yet the self-proclaimed tall Patel leader has no takers in the party. Hardik Patel has quit the Congress party and wants to change political robes.
He is singing all those political tones which hint at his desire of joining the Saffron party. BJP, the party, which he once vowed to remove as Gujarat Government. He is calling BJP a strong party in the state. He even backed the major landmark decisions of the past like Article 370 and Ram Mandir. He called himself a ‘Ram Bhakt’ and a proud Hindu. Hindustan Times, quoted Hardik as saying, “We believed in Lord Ram. On my father’s birth anniversary, I will distribute 4,000 copies of the Bhagavad Gita. We are Hindus, and proud to be Hindus”.
Gujarat has been a BJP bastion for nearly three decades. The only thing it lacked was Patidar votes. However, with the BJP’s attempts to encash votes from Patidar community, it can be asserted that BJP will storm back to power with a thumping majority.