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Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017: Why Bhavnagar West is So Important for All Parties

While Gujarat BJP chief Jitu Vaghani has enjoyed the support of the Patidar community in the past, Hardik Patel has been trying to pull the community away from the BJP.

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Updated:December 9, 2017, 8:34 AM IST
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Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017: Why Bhavnagar West is So Important for All Parties
PAAS convener Hardik Patel being welcomed by his supporters at Bhavnagar district of Gujarat on Saturday. (PTI Photo)
New Delhi: Of the 182 seats in Gujarat Assembly, one key constituency is Bhavnagar West, which will see a battle between two heavyweights from the BJP and Congress.

While the ruling party has fielded Gujarat BJP chief Jitu Vaghani, Congress has lined up its stalwart Shaktisinh Gohil against him. In another time, Vaghani could be confident of a win in Bhavnagar, which is his home ground. However, this time around, Gohil along with the 24-year-old Patidar leader Hardik Patel pose a serious challenge to his prospects.

As President of the BJP’s Gujarat unit, Vaghani, a Patidar, is an essential cog in the machine that is trying to achieve BJP boss Amit Shah’s aim of ‘Mission 150’. But Bhavnagar West may end up being a prestige battle for the BJP since Vaghani, the incumbent MLA, is trying hard to keep his support base together with Gohil jumping into the fray.

The Congress has been particularly active in Bhavnagar. Besides, Hardik Patel’s Patidar agitation, too, has found support in the area. All this has become a cause of concern for the BJP and none of the players in this battle are leaving a stone unturned. Perhaps, that is why Hardik Patel held a road show in the city of Bhavnagar on the same day as both Gohil and Vaghani held ‘Sneh Milan’ events.

While Vaghani has enjoyed the support of the Patidar community in the past, Hardik Patel has been trying to pull the community away from the BJP.

However, Patidars are not the only community that the state BJP president is having a tough time in mobilising. Vaghani has ruffled many a feather within the Rajputs or Kshatriyas when his intervention against a sarpanch from the community triggered resentment within.

Shaktisinh Gohil, who is currently the MLA from Abdasa in Kutch, is said to have sensed the opportunity against Vaghani in Bhavnagar and chose to contest from here.

In an attempt to dent Vaghani’s support base, Gohil has grown vocal about securing Patidar rights while simultaneously reaching out to the Kshatriyas. He has spoken about securing reservations for Patidars “without hurting the interests of other communities”.

Meanwhile, Vaghani’s focus has been on BJP’s “development” agenda. He has branded Hardik Patel as an “agent of Congress” and slammed the Congress party for indulging in the “politics of caste”. Vaghani claimed that the Congress is trying to divide communities to win the election.

The Bhavnagar West seat was earlier known as Bhavnagar South. In 2007, Gohil defeated Vaghani by a margin of 7,000 votes here. After delimitation in 2012, the seat was renamed Bhavnagar West and this time, Vaghani was successful in wresting the seat from Congress. Gohil contested and won from Abdasa. Changing political dynamics and calculations have, once again, pitted these two leaders against each other.

The outcome of the Bhavnagar West election may very well depend on caste-based calculations. The constituency has a total of 2,41,282 votes with 1,25,688 men and 1,15,594 women. Of the total number of voters, around 54,300 votes belong to the Koli community, 36,000 to the Patels, 23,000 to the Kshatriyas and 12,000 to the Vania community. There are 14,000 Scheduled Caste voters, 22,000 minority community voters and 50,200 OBC voters.
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