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What Impact will Patidar Agitation Have on Gujarat Elections 2017?

By admin

November 10, 2017

Gujarat Elections 2017

 

The impact and influence of the Patidar community on the forthcoming Gujarat elections 2017 should be seen in the context of the existing demands and contradictions of the other communities that are going to influence the outcome.

On the surface, the Gujarat elections are for Congress to lose rather than what would have been an obvious win for the BJP. Let’s take look as to why.

This Gujarat election is being fought on caste and communal politics. Five major communities will determine the outcome – Patidars, Kshatriyas, Dalits, Muslims and OBCs. At present, all are in favour of the Congress.

The biggest swing in voter pattern from previous elections in the state will come from the Patidar community that represents around 12% of the population. The Patels are a rich and influential community that has been a staunch supporter of the BJP for over two and half decades. That is set to change.

The community’s demand for reservations, led by the firebrand leader Hardik Patel, has become an Achilles’ Heel for the BJP, an issue the party has simply failed to address. For the Congress, this has come as a tremendous opportunity to win back support of a community that had once been its strong supporter. The problem for the Congress is the extended duration of the agitation which has weakened the community’s resolve within certain sections, with some still preferring the BJP over Congress.

With the Supreme Court striking down proposals for any new quota, neither Congress nor BJP can walk that path before the elections. Therefore, BJP has been trying an alternate route at least to partially win back the community by besting Sardar Patel’s legacy from the Congress.

The proposal to build the massive statue of Sardar Patel is an attempt to achieve that, and there are some signs that it may be making some headway towards that end. To what extent the community remains united against the BJP, will determine the voting pattern of the Patidars, who exert a strong influence in at least 60 seats out of 182 seats in contention, that’s around 33%.

Politically, Hardik Patel is on a far weaker ground in comparison to 2015 when the Patidar agitation was at its peak. Since then, the agitation itself has lost some of its steam, especially after the Supreme Court’s ruling goes against the community’s demand for fresh quota. Neither BJP nor Congress has an answer, so it remains to be seen to what extent can Hardik continue to keep the community together.

Of the other four communities, Kshatriyas remain a question for the Congress, as it’s still not clear to what extent they will vote against the BJP. The spate of physical attacks against members of the Dalit community has ensured they will remain in support of the Congress. Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani has been aggressively canvassing against the BJP.

OBC leader Alpesh Thakore has joined the Congress bringing support from a large section of OBCs. That leaves the Muslims. Post 2002, Narendra Modi worked hard towards rebuilding relations with the Muslim community with development as the prime agenda. It worked, not just with the Muslim community, but across all communities. That’s what won him the 2007 and 2012 elections. This time around, it is caste and not development that’s driving the elections, and the Muslims are clearly against the BJP, a trend not restricted to Gujarat.

So, with five communities largely rallying against it, the BJP party high command has a big problem at hand. Compounding the situation are issues like GST and demonetization. The farmer and trader communities have been most affected by demonetization, while the latter is still to come to terms with the introduction of GST.

With over 40% of the population against the BJP and issues like GST and demonetization still fresh on people’s minds, this is an election for Congress to lose. Rahul Gandhi has been attracting crowds in Gujarat, but it’s more to spite BJP than any real agenda on offer from the Congress. The Patidars realise that and that’s why the swing factor of this community will have a major impact on not just the election outcome but what happens afterwards. This battle is far from over.

 

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

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