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How North Gujarat Turned Saving Grace for BJP to Compensate For Angry Saurashtra, Kutch

Representative image

Representative image

In Saurashtra, BJP was trailing far behind Congress and in Central Gujarat, both parties saw a neck-and-neck see-saw battle. But what gave the BJP an edge in the election was its decisive lead in North Gujarat, where Hardik Patel’s Patidar agitation was expected to harm the party the most.

New Delhi/Mehsana/Ahmedabad: The BJP on Monday fought off the Congress to retain power in Gujarat for the sixth consecutive time, but not without losing ground in some of its bastions. In Saurashtra, BJP was trailing far behind Congress and in Central Gujarat, both parties saw a neck-and-neck see-saw battle. But what gave the BJP an edge in the election was its decisive lead in North Gujarat, where Hardik Patel’s Patidar agitation was expected to harm the party the most.

That North Gujarat is where PAAS pulled the biggest crowds is no surprise. Hardik Patel belongs to the Kadva Patel community. However, the Kadva Patels are small in numbers as compared to the Leuva Patels, who are concentrated in North Gujarat. In the last leg of the Gujarat Assembly elections, PAAS concentrated all its energies in the North.

In the six districts of North Gujarat – Banaskantha, Patan, Sabarkantha, Mehsana, Gandhinagar and Aravalli – Patels could have had the decisive vote. Unlike Saurashtra, where Leuva Patels outnumber the Kadvas, the Patidar outfit was banking on the Patel vote to remain united.

PAAS’s army of volunteers from all over the state had moved to the north in the last week of campaigning. In addition to Hardik Patel’s rallies, PAAS volunteers also spread across villages in all of these six key districts. Despite activist Alpesh Thakor joining Congress, the BJP was confident of support from North Gujarat’s Thakors, a powerful OBC community. OBC consolidation in favour of the BJP and a split in the Patidar vote seems to have aided the BJP on its way to victory.

PAAS is not the only player which saw North Gujarat as a must-win battle. BJP, too, sees its prestige attached to this region. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Gujarat Deputy CM Nitin Patel and former CM Anandiben Patel all hail from the six districts here. Three of them, with the exception of Shah, are from Mehsana district alone and BJP’s candidate from Mehsana city is Deputy CM Nitin Patel.

Mehsana district has nearly 4 lakh Patidar voters and Thakors, who form the largest community among the OBCs in Mehsana, have 3.31 lakh voters. Combined with other OBCs, they may have helped the BJP sail through the election. This, perhaps, explains PAAS’s outreach to communities other than the Patels. BJP scraped through in the Prime Minister’s home district, as well as other areas of North Gujarat.