All eyes on Hardik patel, as Gujarat goes for final voting with patidar power politics

All eyes on Hardik patel, as Gujarat goes for final voting with patidar power politics
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Photo: PTI

By Abdul hafiz lakhani:

All eyes are on Patidars in Gujarat as state will vote in 2nd and last phase election tomorrow on Wednesday for 93 seats.

Ground reports of overwhelming consolidation of Patidars in the first phase of polls in which 89 seats are up for grabs in South and Western Gujarat have left the BJP worried, sources said.The influential Patidar community, which accounts for around 12 per cent of the State’s population, could prove to be the ‘X factor’ in the polls in which agitating quota spearhead Hardik Patel pledged support to the Congress and appealed to people to “uproot the BJP” this time.

As fag end of campaign, ‘Vikas’ (development) took a back seat, and caste and religious issues received prominence. Pakistan, too, found ample mention in the final stages of the electioneering. In the 2012 assembly polls, the BJP had won 115 seats, while the Congress bagged 61. Ahmedabad accounts for 16 seats, out of which the BJP holds 14. The Congress is hoping to change this scenario.

Party sources said if consolidation of Patidar votes, who constitute about 12-13% of Gujarat’s population, against BJP continues in the second phase, it can alter results at least on 47 seats if not more, most of which had been won by the BJP in 2012 Assembly elections. A sizeable consolidation of Patidar votes against BJP can have impact on 65 to 70 seats.

“The predictions of a massive BJP sweep can overturn if the Patidars have consolidated and voted against us, as the ground reports suggests,” said a district level BJP leader.

The dip of 4.6% in the voting this year also may not augur well for the BJP as it observers in Gujarat say it could be because of disenchantment among BJP voters who chose not to come out to vote.The report of a think tank that works for the BJP also suggests a sizeable shift in voting pattern in the first phase, sources said. Although it has given the BJP 51 out of 89 seats in the first phase, it also signals significant gain for the Congress that had won only 16 of these seats in 2012 elections. BJP had won about 67 of these seats.

The report of a think tank that works for the BJP also suggests a sizeable shift in voting pattern in the first phase, sources said. Although it has given the BJP 51 out of 89 seats in the first phase, it also signals significant gain for the Congress that had won only 16 of these seats in 2012 elections. BJP had won about 67 of these seats.

The Patidars are a dominant caste in Gujarat. They comprise only about 12.3 per cent of the state’s population. But they exert a disproportionate influence on Gujarat elections by virtue of their socio-economic status — much like the Marathas in Maharashtra. The Patidars are predominantly affluent. Of the 117 BJP MLAs in the outgoing Gujarat Assembly, 37 are Patels. Their grip on the state’s political scenario comes from their hold on Gujarat’s manufacturing sector.