Key to Gujarat
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As the state votes in its second phase tomorrow, The Sunday Express looks at five factors—apart from Narendra Modi—that could play a role in these polls.
1) Patel rebellion
NIKAVA VILLAGE (JAMNAGAR DISTRICT)
Nikava, 32 kilometres from Rajkot city, is one of the Patel-dominated villages in these parts. The Congress could never make inroads in Kalawad taluka, which covers this village, says former sarpanch Keshavji Boghara. Of the 4,800 people in this village, 33 per cent are Leuva Patels and 30 per cent Muslims. Boghara, who has roots in the RSS, says, "Our village is the epicentre of the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) because many of its workers are from here".
The rebellion against chief minister Narendra Modi's 'tanashahi' (dictatorship), led by Keshubhai Patel, which culminated in the formation of the GPP, is largely seen as Patel anger at being "denied a greater share of the power pie". Traditionally landowners, Patels, or Patidars, constitute 14 per cent of the votes in Gujarat, of which the Leuva Patels, the sub-sect to which Keshubhai belongs, make up over 30 lakh and Kadva Patels, the sub-sect to which Anandi Patel belongs, over 22 lakh.
Rajkot-based businessman Naresh Patel has been trying to organise the Leuva Patels under the Khodaldham Trust, a movement to build a temple to their deity, Khodiyaar maa, at Kagwad village in Rajkot, which Naresh describes as "Saurashtra's centre".
Ever since the Congress alienated them in the 80s by their KHAM (Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim) mobilisation to win elections, the Patels have turned to the BJP and the BJP has nurtured this constituency.
Rudabhai Menpara, a former taluka panchayat member in Nikava, is a Congressman who contested and lost the Assembly elections in 2002. A Leuva Patel farmer, who owns 18 bighas, Menpara switched from the BJP to the Congress 30 years ago because he was "against communalism". Now, he says, he will "watch how the GPP performs and then I may join it".