The Patidar agitation appeared to have made a mark on the Gujarat Assembly elections, as the results declared on Monday showed that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s key vote bank opted for the Congress in several constituencies where the community is dominant.
Years of inaction by the state government, combined with the deaths of Patidar youth during the community’s movement for reservation, left the community disillusioned. The BJP failed to cater to the Patidars’ demands, and the Congress managed to win their support over it.
The BJP, which otherwise won the Assembly elections comfortably, lost two of its seats in the Patidar-dominated Morbi district, while the Congress retained the third. Lalit Vasoya, the only candidate from the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti who contested the elections on a Congress ticket, won by nearly 25,000 votes in Dhoraji constituency.
The saffron party barely won Saurashtra’s Botad seat, with Saurabh Patel leaving behind Congress’ Kalathiya Madhavjibhai by just 906 votes. The Congress won all but one constituency in Surendranagar district.
Patan, another district where the Patidars make up a major chunk of votes, now has three of his four constituencies with a Congress MLA. Backward caste candidate Alpesh Thakor, who was fielded by the Congress in Radhanpur constituency, won his first bid at the Assembly. The seat was earlier with the BJP.
Hardik Patel, the face of the Patidar agitation for reservation, had drawn huge crowds at his rallies during the election campaign. His core political plank was reservation for his community, which brought him into the limelight in 2015. As Patel is not old enough to contest elections yet, he did not float a political party with his Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, nor did he outright say he supports the Congress.
A month before the elections, the Congress had met Patidar leaders and promised them the quotas they have been demanding. Congress President Rahul Gandhi visited several Patidar areas during his poll campaign in Gujarat. He also visited Unjha’s Umiya Mata temple, the seat of the reigning deity of the Kadva Patidars.
The Patidars comprise around 12% of Gujarat’s population and dominate over 60 constituencies, many of them in Saurashtra and the cities of Ahmedabad and Surat.