The Gujarat population comprises approximately 43 per cent OBCs, 12.5 per cent Patidars or Patels, and 9 per cent Muslims.
Ahmedabad: It is said that the Hindutva factor matters in a state like Gujarat, unlike in UP and Bihar where the caste factor works. But the 2017 Assembly elections and the candidate selection for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections prove that the caste factor remains important in the state, and has always been there in a subtle manner.
For the upcoming elections, the Congress and the BJP have nominated 15 candidates from the Patidar community considered to be the most influential in electoral politics. The BJP has focused on the OBC votes and nominated nine candidates.
The Gujarat population comprises approximately 43 per cent OBCs, 12.5 per cent Patidars or Patels, and 9 per cent Muslims. The BJP has not nominated a single Muslim candidate and the Congress one.
Political observers recalled that in the 1980s, Congress stalwart and four-time chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki had experimented with the much-debated KHAM, consolidating the Kshstriya, Harijan (Scheduled Caste), Adivasi (tribal) and Muslim votes to win 149 out of 182 seats in the Assembly elections in 1985. Since then, the OBCs stayed with the Congress till Mr Narendra Modi came to power as Chief Minister.
The BJP, after Mr Modi became CM in 2001, fought the 2002, 2007 and 2012 Assembly elections mainly on the Hindutva and development planks.
Even then, the caste factor was there and played a crucial role.
Mr Modi snatched a major share of the OBC vote from the Congress. When former CM Keshubhai Patel, a strong Patel leader, parted ways with the BJP on grounds of injustice to Patidars, it was the OBC consolidation that saved the BJP.
The caste factor surfaced again in 2017. Young OBC leader Alpesh Thakor’s Thakor Sena sprang up to oppose Mr Hardik Patel’s demand to include the Patidar community in the OBC reservation quota. In absence of Mr Modi, who had become Prime Minister by that time, the state witnessed caste playing a more important role than previously.
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