Congress hopes for Patel-OBC-Dalit vote consolidation in Gujarat

Congress hopes for Patel-OBC-Dalit vote consolidation in Gujarat

The Congress party is banking on the  Patel-OBC-Dalit vote consolidation in Gujarat North Gujarat - the epicentre of the Patel quota agitations.

Traditionally North Gujarat region, which will go to the polls on December 14, with its 53 seats, including 21 from Ahmedabad district (Ahmedabad city 16, Rural 5), has been a BJP stronghold. In 2012, BJP bagged 32 seats while Congress got 21. However, excluding Ahmedabad district, Congress did better in 2012 than the BJP by  winning 17 of the 32 seats of Gandhinagar (5 seats), Sabarkantha (4), Banaskantha (9), Arvalli (3), Mehsana (7) and Patan (4). BJP got 15 of these 32 seats. In Ahmedabad district, BJP won 17 seats, with Congress  was relegated to four.

North Gujarat happens to be the home of top BJP leaders “ Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, former chief minister Anandiben Patel and deputy chief minister Nitin Patel. It is also home of Patel quota stir leader Hardik Patel and OBC leader Alpesh Thakor.

It was from here in Mehsana and Visnagar that Hardik and his team began their agitation in July 2015 demanding quota in government jobs and educational institutions under the OBC category. The Patel stir mobilised vast sections of OBCs under Alpesh Thakor, to show their strength and sending out a warning to the government not to tamper with existing reservation model.

The Congress is pinning its hopes on consolidation of Patel-OBC-Dalit votes, primarily due to unprecedented support to the three youngsters – Hardik Patel, who is supporting Congress' cause; Alpesh Thakor, who is contesting from Radhanpur in Patan district as Congress candidate and Jignesh Mevani, Dalit youth leader, who is contesting as independent from Vadgam with Congress help. While Patels dominate the political landscape in Mehsana, Visnagar and Viramgam, Thakors play a key role in Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Patan, Arvalli, Gandhinagar and Mehsana.

Congress has its task cut out in Banaskantha and Sabarkantha as people still remember that their legislators (Congressmen) were in Bengaluru resort while they  were reeling under floods. The only hope Congress has is that many are yet to receive adequate flood relief from the BJP government.

BJP's top leader in the region and deputy chief minister Nitin Patel who has won multiple polls since 1990 is defending his  Mehsana seat that he won in 2012 by 24,500 votes.

Ahmedabad has been saffron since 1990s, with BJP candidates winning by healthy margins over their nearest Congress rivals. However, political observers say that some voters may swing away from BJP as the city witnessed multiple disruptions due to Patel quota stir and there are murmurs of dissent with regards to civic administration, infrastructure and local leadership.

The region goes to polls on December 14 and results will be announced on December 18.

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