Battle for the States: Gujarat

Three Factors That Will Determine the Outcome

By Sheikh Saaliq | 28 Nov, 2017


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Ever since the maverick trio of Patidar leader Hardik Patel, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor and Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani began taking on the ruling Bharatiaya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat, Assembly polls have become exciting for national audience.

While it remains to be seen if the dramatic campaign will swing votes, the past trends show that BJP has little reasons to worry.


The BJP and the Congress might be talking about jobs and economy but caste might decide the fate of the election in December. Both parties have been locked in a long fight to attract influential castes, many of whom have been staunch supporters of the BJP.

At the core of the renewed dynamics are the Patidars, a traditionally BJP-supporting community that comprises 12% of the state’s 60 million population and holds influence in at least 60 of the 182 seats.

The Patidars are believed to be in large numbers in 52 Assembly constituencies, while the Thakores and Kolis are said to be decisive voters in 68 constituencies.

Clearly, no political party can afford to ignore either of them.


In 1980, the Congress stitched together a rainbow coalition– called KHAM for Kshatriya, Harijan (Dalits), Adivasi (Tribals) and Muslims – that brought together about 40% of the state’s population and brought Madhavsinh Solanki to power with a record 141 seats in a 182-member assembly.

Solanki mobilised KHAM communities to challenge Patel dominance in state politics till 1984.

Today, Congress leaders describe the new caste engineering as KHAP, a spinoff from former CM Madhavsinh Solanki’s KHAM formula.


During the last five state elections, the BJP’s vote share didn’t increase drastically.

From 42.5% of the vote share in 1995, BJP only managed to lift its vote share to 47.9% in 2012 elections. However, that hasn’t dented its winning streak in last 20 years. This was evident in the 2012 polls where the victory margin for 12 BJP MLAs was less than five thousand votes.

Congress is also confident that Muslims in Gujarat would continue to vote for it.

(Average vote share of Muslims from different regions of Gujarat in last five elections.)

Congress BJP

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Gujarat Elections in Graphics

Battle for the States: Gujarat