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What role would women, Dalits, and Patels play in Gujarat elections 2017?

By admin

October 28, 2017

Gujarat Elections 2017

What role would women, Dalits, and Patels play in Gujarat elections 2017? The high stakes battle for 182 Assembly seats in Gujarat is all set to commence with voting to take place in two phases, on 9 December and 14 December 2017. The counting will begin on 18 December 2017. So why is this election so important to the two major political parties – the ruling BJP and the Congress and what is really at stake? A lot. BJP has been the dominant party since 1995 Assembly elections, and the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ruled the state for three consecutive terms before vacating his seat as Chief Minister to take up National duty as PM in 2014.

Since then, Gujarat has had a major influence on national politics, and therefore, the 2017 Assembly elections are expected to set the tone for the 2019 General Elections, when BJP hopes for an encore of 2014. What stands between BJP’s dominance in Gujarat in 2017 and to a certain extent 2019 are three major vote banks – women, Dalits and the Patel community. The latter two are largely dissatisfied with the ruling BJP, while the female voter is rapidly asserting as an important factor in exercising her right to choose a political leader and party.

 The Dalit factor Dalits have long been demanding equal status in the traditionally structured social hierarchy which has kept their community out of the social mainstream. The social divide is sharper in certain rural and semi-urban areas of Gujarat. Adding to a traditional problem has been instances of violence against Dalits that stemmed from the anti-cow slaughter agitation by vocal Hindu factions in the state and other parts of the country. The Dalit community is upset with the ruling party for not coming out strongly in their defence. And, this is likely to go against BJP in the coming elections.

The Patidar factor The protracted agitation by the Patidars – the highly influential Patel community, is worrying the ruling party. Led by the young firebrand leader, Hardik Patel, Patidars have been demanding inclusion of their community in the OBC list. It has been an unresolved issue that threatens the political outcome both in 2017 in Gujarat and 2019 General elections.

Women – the emerging factor Women have largely played a silent role in voting patterns and have largely followed the menfolk in voting trends. That is now beginning to change. The female voter in Gujarat, as in many other parts of the country, is now politically aware and is not afraid to make her independent political choices. At present, no clear trends are indicating which way the collective vote will play out but BJP continues to remain the preferred choice for this segment, and this will be great news for the ruling party. So are the recent Opinion Polls in the state also reflecting the same? It seems not.

Most Opinion Polls seems to suggest that BJP will garner 120+ seats while Congress will continue to remain a distant second, hovering between 50 to 60 seats. The result seems contrarian to current trends in the state. Let’s look at past assembly results. In 2002, BJP won 127, Congress 51. In 2007, BJP 117, Congress 59. In 2012, BJP 115, Congress 61. In all three assembly elections in Gujarat since 2002, the Narendra Modi years, BJP seats have been declining, while Congress has been climbing, albeit marginally.

In 2017 there is no Narendra Modi in the state and such was his stature that no one has been able to come close to replace him and that’s been a problem for the party at the state level. Adding to that is the ongoing Patel agitation and is, without doubt, going to have an impact on the poll outcome. Then there is the Dalit factor. The Dalits are further away from the BJP than they were in 2012 when the party won 115 seats. Between these two significant vote banks – Patidars and Dalits, BJP certainly faces a major challenge though it may not be enough to unseat them. So why aren’t the Opinion Polls reflecting this? Some polls are predicting an even higher seat gain for the BJP. Now, that’s an enigma that will only unravel itself on 18 December.

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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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