OBC agitation in Gujarat may be a hindrance for BJP victory

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The fight between BJP and Congress to win the Gujarat assembly elections due in Dec this year is at its peak. Both the parties trying every possible way to get the victory in their pockets.

Though the final dates for the polls are still not announced but one thing is for sure that one of the most prosperous states in India will have a new Chief Minister in 2018. The victory in Gujarat assembly polls will play a major role in deciding the milestone for the upcoming General elections due in 2019. All the parties majorly BJP and Congress are geared up for the assembly polls trying to woo in all the minorities and votes to their sides.

The state is soon going to witness a political war and the proposed Assembly elections in Gujarat state, which play a key role in the nation’s politics, will prepare the background of the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 and show all the political parties a mirror of reality.

BJP has been sitting on the throne in Gujarat for the past 19 years and the main reason to remain in the rule is Narendra Modi. Out if the 19 years for 13 Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister in the state and the Gujarat prospered a lot under his leadership. Under his leadership, BJP won three consecutive assembly elections and during his tenure as the Chief Minister, Gujarat witnessed and enjoyed fame and development in every field. As a result, the state established itself as one of the most prosperous states of the country.

In the past 19 years, if the Godhra riots are kept aside, Gujarat saw no violent acts, communal riots or terrorist activities. Since Narendra Modi assumed office as the Prime Minister of India, things have changed in Gujarat and it seems like BJP is not enjoying the same honour and respect as it did in his time. In order to enhance women empowerment in the state, Narendra Modi made Anandiben Patel as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, but she failed to gain the popularity.

At 75 Anandiben quit from the position of the CM and the Gujarat BJP high command named Vijay Rupani as the next Chief Minister. But like Anandiben, even he failed to earn the faith and support of the people. Unlike Modi, both Anandiben and Vijay Rupani are not very popular in the state as the Chief Ministers.

But these two CMs are not entirely responsible for the downfall of the popularity of BJP in Gujarat. After Narendra Modi, his close aide and right hand Amit Shah was the only eligible candidate for the post. However, after being elected as the Rajya Sabha Parliamentary constituency in Delhi this year and also shouldering the responsibilities as the BJP Party President, Shah is not able to give his undivided attention in Gujarat.

Taking advantage of the weakening position of BJP, Congress is in the midst of trying to gain the throne by hook or by crook.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has been continuously touring Gujarat for quite some time now. Congress had felt defeated and had lost all the hopes when the veteran leader Shankersinh Vaghela rebelled against the party by quitting and taking away 7 more with him. The energy was reinstigated in the party and it saw another ray of hope which fueled the party to get up and fight back against was the victory of Congress candidate Ahmed Patel in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls after much drama.

After Ahmed Patel nailed the seat for the third consecutive term, Congress once again was filled with energy and new hopes. The party came back on the grounds with new strategies to defeat BJP and take the rule in Gujarat.

Recently, Rahul Gandhi was on a three-day tour to Gujarat, during these three days visit, he visited Saurashtra region and organized several small-scale meetings. After this, he will visit Northern, Southern and Central Gujarat. The party is taking advantage of the youth’s and minorities who are already agitated with the ruling BJP. If the party succeeds in getting them on their side than it will surely have an upper hand during the polls in Dec.

As per the prevailing stirs in Gujarat, one thing is for sure that the Patidars are openly demonstrating their discontent against the BJP. A month back the Patidar leader Hardik Patel had organised a rally in which almost around 5 lakh people participated, demanding a quota for the Patidars and criticising the ruling government. The Patidars hold an important percentage of the population in the state and their votes can make a huge difference in deciding the next Chief Minister.

Hardik Patel along with a few other caste leaders have indicated their support to the Congress and this can be regarded as half the battle won. During the recent visit of Rahul Gandhi to the state, Hardik Patel had personally welcomed him and had been spotted with him quite a few times. This change of support of the Patidars from BJP to Congress can be a matter of major concern for BJP as the Patidars have been one of the important vote bank for the party.

In order to compensate for the lack of the support of the Patidars, BJP is busy luring other castes and minorities to their side, however, this will not be an easy task given the prevailing political conditions in Gujarat.

Of the total 182 seats in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, the Patidars hold 70 seats and they are a one-fifth number of the total population of voters in Gujarat. The results of the rivalry with the community could be seen during the Panchayat elections held in Saurashtra in 2015 when BJP faced defeat by losing 8 out of the total 11 seats.

If the ruling party wishes to remain in power than it will have to woo the unhappy Patidars to their side before the assembly election, else they might have to pay a heavy price for being hostile towards the Patidars.

It is not only the Patidars that are agitated with the ruling BJP but others are also coming up to demonstrate their discontent against the ruling government. The name of Jignesh Mevani is emerging as a young Dalit leader in Gujarat for quite some time now. Jignesh a lawyer and social worker by profession has made a mark in the state as a Dalit leader.

Jignesh had protested the violence that happened against the Dalits in Una on the name of Gau Raksha. The Muslims had also supported and joined Jignesh in this protest, showcasing the Dalit-Muslim unity in the state.

Through the “Aajadi Koonch Andolan”, Jignesh had encouraged around 20,000 Dalits to take vows not to carry away or touch the dead animals. The community had very peacefully carried forward their protest and had given a hard blow to the ruling BJP government.

During the movement triggered by Jignesh, there was a confluence of Dalit-Muslim unity in the state. Muslim society too took part in this movement and expressed its resentment against the BJP government. In the state of Gujarat, the number of Dalit voters comprises almost 7% of the population and the number of Muslim voters is also 7%. Of the 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly, the Muslim voters have the strength of 35 seats while the 13 constituencies have the effect of the Dalit voters.

In such situations, if the Congress is successful in getting the support of Jignesh and his followers, the party will also have a hold on the Dalit-Muslim votes. This can be a major setback for BJP and Congress may be able to get the ruling power.

Standing against Hardik Patel’s Patidar movement demanding reservation, today the OBC community of Gujarat has assumed Alpesh Thakor as its leader and he has gained much popularity and support in very less time. Alpesh had opposed the Patidar movement and had warned that if the ruling BJP kneels down to fulfil the demand of the Patidar reservation than the OBC community will overthrow the government from its rule.

Alpesh Thakor is the President of Gujarat Kshatriya-Thakur Army and is also in the role of Convenor of OBC Ekta Manch. The popularity of  Thakor in the OBC category can be estimated from the fact that he has united the 146 castes of the OBC category and got their support in the state.

Recently Alpesh has been constantly protesting against the BJP government in Gujarat and raising the issues of unemployment and ban on alcohol. BJP is engaged in luring the OBC community by every possible means but no meaningful results are achieved yet. Alpesh has worked at the booth level management in at least 80 seats in the rural area in Gujarat.

Alpesh may not be very good in playing political tactics, but he is expert and experienced in managing and uniting communities. The entire OBC community which holds 70 assembly seat in Gujarat, stands with Alpesh Thakor and forming bad relations with him also may counter-attack BJP.

BJP was hoping to get the support of the OBC community after losing the faith of the Patidars. However, the agitation led by Alpesh against the government is speaking some other results. Meanwhile, if the Congress able to get Alpesh on their side than the party will be benefited by cashing in from the agitation of OBC against the government in their own favour.

If Congress by hook or by crook gets the support of Hardik Patel led Patidars, Alpesh Thakor led OBC and Jignesh Mevani led Dalit-Muslim support, BJP will have to face a hard time to nail the victory in Gujarat Assembly Polls in due in Dec 2017.

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