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BJP rebels look to affect Modi's votebank in Saurashtra

Dec 11, 2012 09:01 AM IST Politics Politics

Rajkot: Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi will address meetings at Sanand in Ahmedabad in central Gujarat and at Jamnagar and Amreli in the Saurashtra region on Tuesday. Observers say it's in the rural confines of Saurashtra that the most powerful political battle is being fought. BJP rebels led by Keshubhai Patel will be looking to make a dent in Chief Minister Narendra Modi's original bastion.

Khodal Dham President Naresh Patel said, "Progress has been achieved accross India. It cannot be credited to one individual. The development here has not reached the middle and lower classes."

It's a contrarian view to Modi's Gujarat narrative and it comes from a man who could determine which way one of Gujarat's biggest caste blocks, the leuva patels, will vote. Naresh Patel's statement reflects a resentment in a caste which has dominated Gujarat and led to the rise of the BJP. They feel they don't have the traditional hold over Gandhinagar under Modi.

In the rural confines of Saurashtra, it's caste, grassroot issues and local leadership that matter and if Moditva is at it's weakest then it's here. Ironically, the traditional bastion of the BJP is also where the rebels are at their strongest.

In 1995, Keshubhai Patel, a leuva patel himself led the BJP to power and since then, Saurashtra has stayed with the party. Today an ageing Keshubhai is the rebel and his party, the GPP, has fielded maximum number of candidates from the caste hoping to dent the BJP.

What adds to the caste base is farmer resentment. Saurashtra's main cotton crop has failed and farmers like Inderbhai Jadeja have suffered huge losses. They point out that despite boasts about the Narmada canal, water shortage in Saurashtra hasn't been addressed.

It may not be a sentiment shared across regions, but it matters in Saurashtra, which gave Modi 39 out of its 52 seats in 2007. Holding on to that number may be the biggest test Moditva has faced yet.