Cong Kham Sutra does not put BJP in jitters in Gujarat

Cong Kham Sutra does not put BJP in jitters in Gujarat

The Congress plans in Gujarat for a "rainbow coalition" of Dalits, Patidars, OBCs and Muslims, as a re-creation of Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim support base of the early 1990s, has not exactly put the BJP in a state of jitters ahead of the December polls.

Although these groups comprise over 60% of the electorate, senior BJP strategists see the caste chemistry is not working wonders for the Congress because the groups,  notably involving the Patidars and the Other Backward Castes (OBC)  are in social conflict.

Hardik Patel, who became the young face of the Patel agitation two years ago, is in negotiations with the Congress on his demand for OBC quota for his community. But the Congress is unable to promise OBC tag as yet.

Alpesh Thakore, a young OBC leader who recently joined the Congress, is opposed to extending reservation  for the upper caste Patels. OBCs make up 40% but Patidars are believed to be close to 20%.

Thakore's opposition and fissures among the Patidars over Hardik's support for Rahul Gandhi-led campaign without a clear assurance of an OBC quota for the community, has brought some cheer to the BJP election managers.

The BJP has stepped up campaign to publicise that the Supreme Court has made it clear that quotas cannot exceed 50% and including Patitdars in the OBC list will push the overall reservation beyond that limit. "The longer these bargaining sessions take, the poorer would be the image of these caste leaders and the Congress party in the eyes of the common Gujarati," said a key BJP strategist, adding that these grouping of castes would not add to the Congress's 38.9% vote share from 2012.

Traditionally, the Patidars have backed the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi emerged as Hindutva's poster boy, uniting a number of Gujarat's castes and undoing the Congress' old base, another BJP leader said.

Kham formula
The Kham (Kshatriyas-Harijans-Advasis-Muslims) formula will not work in 2017 for a number of reasons, he said. One, Kshatriya leader Shankersinh Vaghela is already out of Congress party and has formed his own Jan Vikalp Party, which will fight in all 182 assembly seats, according to BJP surveyors.

The Muslims are the only community who may largely vote for the Congress. "However, here too clear signs of change are emerging. Muslim community leaders, youngsters and educated people are queuing up for BJP's tickets in many assembly segments," claimed a party leader.  

The BJP's hope is that Hardik's opposition could do no better than Keshubhai Patel's party did in 2012. The Congress leaders say their objective is to deflate BJP chief Amit Shah's target of winning 150 of the state's 182 assembly seats.

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