Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Dominant BJP looking for a clean sweep despite facing Kshatriya ire

What is bothering the BJP is the Kshatriya agitation, which has spread from Rajkot and other Saurashtra regions to north Gujarat’s Banaskantha and Patan, among other districts, where the community has a sizable population.
Last Updated : 24 April 2024, 03:37 IST
Last Updated : 24 April 2024, 03:37 IST

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Satish Jha Ahmedabad, DHNS

In the middle of Kodram village market in Vadgam taluka of Banaskantha district, a group of youngsters is busy talking to themselves. They are in their 20s, neatly dressed, well-trimmed hairline, handlebar mustaches and near perfect beard necklines. Asked about the mood of Lok Sabha election, they all respond in unison, "We all are from the same Rajput community angry over Parshottam Rupala; the BJP didn't change him despite repeated protests."

"Rupala is a big leader and he wouldn't speak anything randomly. Therefore, the party should have removed him. We have been supporters of the BJP and Modi since the beginning but not at the moment. We are also a community and we feel that BJP is not respecting us. For us, community comes first," the eldest in the group says, refusing to share names.

He pointed towards a pile of iron pipes and folded banners, apparently of BJP and Modi, lying on a corner, as proof that they were indeed BJP supporters. The youths said they removed the banners on April 19 after BJP refused to withdraw Rupala's candidature from Rajkot Lok Sabha seat for commenting that erstwhile “Maharajas” broke bread with Britishers and married off their daughters to foreigners.

The Kshatriya anger is simmering and the agitation is hogging the limelight while hurting the BJP's reputation, which otherwise holds total dominance in the state from panchayat to parliament. It is eying a hat-trick of winning all 26 LS seats and the opposition Congress is limping with setbacks. The latest embarrassment came after its Surat candidate’s nomination papers were rejected over alleged signature discrepancies. BJP opened an account without a single vote in the diamond city, where the party had not lost since 1989.  

But, what is bothering the BJP is the Kshatriya agitation, which has spread from Rajkot and other Saurashtra regions to north Gujarat’s Banaskantha and Patan, among other districts, where the community has a sizable population. The Kshatriya organisations have warned that from April 24, “dharm ratha” will be launched campaigning against the BJP across 26 Lok Sabha seats at district, taluka and village levels.

Unlike the 2017 Assembly election when the Patidar agitation for reservation almost threw the BJP out of power, the Kshatriyas are not as dominant as Patidars whose two socially and economically well-off sub castes — Leuva and Kadva — have virtually put the BJP at the driving seat since mid 1990s. Since then, the Patels have been dominating top ministerial posts including chief ministers right from the days of Keshubhai Patel, Anandiben Patel and current CM Bhupendra Patel.

Kshatriyas, on the other hand, constitute less than 7% in the state population and have remained on the fringes. The two communities have a bloodied history in Saurashtra which started years after land reform in early 50s benefitting Patidars a great deal. The land owners Rajputs were left behind and since then, caste rivalry has grown, which turned violent in the 80s.

"Why the party is not worried is the fact that aggressive Kshatriyas are only consolidating Patidar votes in favour of the BJP given the bitter history they share,” a BJP insider said.

After the agitation broke out, Congress leader Paresh Dhanani, belonging to Leuva Patidar community, agreed to contest from Rajkot, a BJP bastian, against Rupala hailing from Kadva faction of the Patidars. The Patidars, also known by Patel surnames, form the largest chunk of votes here.

The other seats the BJP and Congress are said to be closely contesting are Banaskantha in north Gujarat, where also caste factor is taking precedence. By giving a ticket to sitting MLA Geniben Thakor, the Congress has pleased the Thakor community, as she is said to be the first candidate ever from the community on the seat. While the BJP has the backing of another dominant caste group-Chaudhary.

Eyes are also set on Bharuch seat which has gone to Aam Aadmi Party as part of alliance with Congress. The AAP has fielded sitting Dediapada MLA  Chaitar Vasava who is drawing large crowds. He is taking on seven-time BJP MP Mansukh Vasava. 

"Whatever little support or sympathy you see for Congress or other parties will disappear the moment Prime Minister Narendra Modi launches his campaign blitzkrieg. He is definitely going to hold a rally in Banaskantha or maybe a roadshow. He has the ability to swing the votes in the party's favour and that's what is going to happen this time again," the BJP insider claimed.

Published 24 April 2024, 03:37 IST

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