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Both BJP, Congress Making Pilgrimage to This 'Dham' in Poll-bound Gujarat

The politically and economically influential Patidar community enjoys a position to affect the election results in several urban and rural seats of Central Gujarat and South Gujarat.

Meghdoot Sharon | CNN-News18

Updated:October 18, 2017, 8:24 AM IST
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Both BJP, Congress Making Pilgrimage to This 'Dham' in Poll-bound Gujarat
The Khodaldham Temple in Kagvad, Rajkot, is the seat of the Leuva Patidar community. (Images source: Khodaldham Trust website)
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Ahmedabad: Ahead of the crucial Gujarat Assembly elections, both Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress have been making attempts to win over Naresh Patel, chairman of the powerful Shree Khodaldham trust, in order to secure the Patel votes who constitute a major chunk of the population.

The trust, while meeting leaders of all these parties, has however maintained that it will not declare its support for any party.

The Patidars account for about 12-13 percent of the state’s population.

The politically and economically influential Patidar community enjoys a position to affect the election results in several urban and rural seats of Central Gujarat and South Gujarat.

The community was known to be ardent BJP loyalists over the past two decades. However, the dynamics of the community have changed with the Patidars finding a new leader in Hardik Patel and his call for reservation.

Speaking to News 18, Paresh Gajera, President of Kagvad-based Shree Khodal Dham Trust said that both BJP and Congress have senior Patidar leaders and the trust is a politically neutral organisation.

"Politicians and their parties are always welcome to speak to us and hold meetings, but Khodaldham has not and will not extend support to any political party. We will ask the Patidar community to vote for good candidates irrespective of which party they stand for," Gajera clarified.

According to sources, the office bearers of the Shree Khodaldham Trust held a meeting to decide that candidates with a good background, and a track record of good social work, will be given preference.

Among the Patidars, the Leuva Patidars constitute about 70 percent of the population, while Kadva Patidars make up the remaining 30 per cent.

The Leuva Patidars are predominantly scattered over Saurashtra, Central Gujarat and South Gujarat, while the Kadva Patidars are settled in North Gujarat.

While Umiya Dham in Unjha town of North Gujarat's Mehsana district is the religious seat of Kadva Patidar community, the Khodaldham at Kagvad in Saurashtra's Rajkot district is the seat of the Leuva Patidar community.

Meanwhile, social scientist Gaurang Jani believes that the Patidar youth’s vote could prove to be a game changer in this election as it is most likely to go against the BJP because of the reservation agitation.

"Just last week, about 2.5 lakh aspirants appeared for an examination for 113 vacant police inspector posts in Gujarat. The Patidar youth believes that they are being left out of the mainstream because of no reservation," Jani told News18.

Jani says that although the statements of trusts like the Khodaldham do influence voting patterns of a community, in this age of social media, decisions are taken based on personal experiences. "Patidars could influence the result of as many as 20 Assembly seats in forthcoming elections," he added.

Despite repeated attempts, Shree Khodaldham Trust chairman Naresh Patel could not be reached for a comment.
| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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