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Patidar politics & it's impact on the Gujarat Assembly elections 2017
First Patidar leader Narendra Patel claimed that BJP had bribed him to join the party hours after publicly admitting that he would be joining the BJP. Later, Nikhil Savani, who had joined the BJP few days ago resigned from the party at a press-conference today. While some have called it a blow to the BJP, others have said that the situation may be advantageous for the Congress.

People have started wondering what would be the next step of Patidar leaders and close aides of Hardik Patel who are presently on a BJP-joining spree. Many people are also skeptical over whether the Patidar andolan will lend support to the Congress.

Few days ago one of my friends Sushil Kothari asked how Patidars would impact the upcoming Assembly elections & whether the BJP had a real chance of losing. I told him that as far as Patidar leaders are concerned, I would wait for some more time to have a clear understanding of their stand as there has been no response from Hardik Patel over his close aides joining the BJP. However, as for BJP's prospects, irrespective of towards which side the Patidars tilt, the party seems well placed in Gujarat.

Patidar andolan did one great thing for the first time, that of unifying Kadva Patel & Leva Patel communities which even Keshu Bhai Patel wasn't able to achieve despite forming the GPP (Gujarat Parivartan Party). One thing to be noted is that this unification happened after the BJP swept the 2014 Lok Sabha elections 26-0 in Gujarat. However, during Anandiben Patel's regime tensions between Patidars & the BJP increased which resulted in the Congress winning on many seats in local elections of November 2015.

In Gujarat, the Patel community has 15-18 per cent of vote share. It's an affluent & influential community. They have been traditional BJP supporters since 1980. A vote bank of such high percentage is definitely attractive for any political party. Hardik Patel and his aides harboured political ambitions. Had AAP clicked as a successful political party in Gujarat, Hardik surely would have become AAP's face in the state. But since the AAP fared poorly losing its credibility, Hardik Patel & co had to bargain hard with both the BJP and Congress as having just 15 per cent vote share won't translate in to any political success in a state like Gujarat. Thus, my take is that some Patidar leaders have strategically joined the BJP to negotiate on behalf of Hardik Patel. Similarly, some other aides of his are trying to negotiate with the Congress.

The fact is that neither the BJP nor the Congress is ready to give reservation to the Patels or their inclusion in Other Backward Class (OBC) category. The reason is that OBCs comprise of around 35 per cent population of Gujarat and whoever supports reservation for Patels, will lose support of the OBCs & may be of the SCs & STs too. That's why Hardik Patel & co are in a catch 22 situation.

Therefore, Hardik Patel & co have to be very careful about their political stand and I wouldn't be surprised if they finally declare that they will remain apolitical in the approaching Assembly polls.

Now coming back to BJP's prospects, we need to understand the evolution of political equation in Gujarat. Till 1980, Congress had upper caste & KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi & Muslim) vote banks in its favour whereas Patidars & OBCs were neutral. While upper castes form 20 per cent of the electorate, KHAM has 30 per cent vote share. In the 90s BJP brought upper castes & Patidars in to its fold thus consolidating around 38 per cent vote share compared to Congress' traditional vote share of KHAM (30 per cent) whereas OBCs (35 per cent) remained neutral. During Modi's era OBCs too became supporters of the BJP. Congress also lost support of Kshatriyas, thus reducing KHAM to HAM. Although, in 2012, Patidar voter base split and around 4 per cent supported Kesubhai Patel's GPP.

Now let's see how KHAM voted in 2012.


                        2012 Vidhan Sabha Election 
 KHAM        INC         BJP      GPP     Others      Total      
 Kshatriya    36%      51%    2%    11%    100 %
 Harijan  56%     37%    2%    5%    100 %
 Adivasi  51%    43%     2%    5%    100%
 Muslim  71%    23%    2%    5%    100%

Approximate votes share If Patidars oppose BJP  

 Vote Bank     Vote Share          2017
 Patidar   15%    Anti BJP
 Upper Caste    20%   Pro-BJP
 OBC    35%   Pro-BJP
 KHAM    30%   KHA will be Po-BJP & M will be pro-Congress  

Now if Patidars go to the Congress what would be the new equation? See the below figures:


Vote Bank     Approximate vote shareProbable base in 2017  
 Patidar  15%
 Muslim  9%
 Total P+M (Congress Base)   24%
 Upper Caste 20%
 OBC 35%
 KHA 21%
 Total (BJP Base) 76%

So, if there is a Patidar polarisation then there would be a counter polarisation of KHA too. That's why I conclude that irrespective of the indecisiveness of the Patidars the BJP is in an advantageous position.

However, does that mean that the BJP is wining hands down? Well, I would refrain from making such a comment until the fat lady sings as it's always difficult how to predict the exact mood of the voters which is influenced by various factors.

(Note: Please don't get misunderstood that BJP will get 76 per cent votes and Congress will get 24 per cent votes. The above table shows the base votes from which majority will vote for either the BJP or Congress.)

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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