Bharatiya Janata Party leaders are taking back-to-back tours of Gujarat to take stock of the situation on the ground as assembly elections are round the corner. As part of series of visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending events relating to the Patidar community in the state, PM on Saturday will inaugurate the KD Parvadiya Hospital, a multi-speciality facility established by a Patidar group in Atkot village of Rajkot district among other projects.
Patidar Outreach By PM Modi:
What catches eye is the Patidar community related events attended by PM Modi since March of 2022. If we look at the events chronologically on March 20 he attended a book release event of Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwa Pratishtanam in Ahmedabad, in the month of April he attended as many as four events related to the community which included Umiya Dham Temple event in Junagarh, Shri Annapurnadham Trust event in Ahmedabad, Hospital inauguration event in Bhuj and Patidar Global Business summit in Surat. In May, PM virtually addressed a function of Kundaldham Swaminarayan Trust in Vadodara.
This is Modi’s latest attempt to bridge the trust deficit between the Patidar community and the BJP, which has felt marginalised in the run-up to the 2017 Assembly elections. As part of the outreach programme, Six of the 17 meetings that Modi has attended in Gujarat since March were organised by Patidar-related organisations.
Patidar Anamat Andolan:
The state BJP leadership is trying everything it can to woo back Patidars who were disgruntled before the 2017 elections as a result of Patidar Anamat Andolan.
The Quota Movement led by Hardik Patel dented BJP’s Pro-Patidar image. Many feel that the reason to appoint Patel Chief Minister last year was a start of BJP’s Patidar outreach programme.
Patidar Vote Bank:
The Patidar community has a tremendous impact on Gujarat’s politics. The community accounts for about 12% of the state’s overall population of about 6 crore people. Many Assembly constituencies in Gujarat have a Patidar population of over 15%, which could have a direct impact on the election outcome. In electoral politics, the community is also regarded as a capable fund manager.
Hardik Patel, Naresh Patel Factor:
Hardik Patel resigned from the Congress last week and hasn’t ruled out a move to the BJP.
While the Congress benefited from Patidar discontent in 2017, the group appears to have backed the AAP in local elections in 2021.
Another prominent Patidar leader, Rajkot-based businessman Naresh Patel, chairman of the Shree Khodaldham Trust, has stated his intention to enter politics and has held talks with the Congress, though no firm plans have surfaced. In this context, the PM’s attempts to maintain continual contact with the public are critical.
BJP leaders about Patidar outreach:
“For our party, ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ is not only a slogan, but a strategy,” a top BJP leader said. We can’t just placate one group because it will vote against us.” The Patidars, according to another senior, are the BJP’s “backbone.”