Kshatriyas, a large vote bank waiting for parties to invest

NAT

The Congress held a Kshatriya rally in Patan in May, and Chief Minister Narendra Modi began the last leg of his Vivekanand Yuva Vikas Yatra from Phagvel in Kheda district in October. In the poll season so far, these have been the only efforts by either side at organising the Kshatriya community in the districts they dominate.

In contrast, both Patel groups, the Kadvas and the Leuvas, have organised a series of shows of strength. The Kolis of both parties, too, have been demanding larger shares of seats.

The Kshatriyas account for nearly 20 per cent of the votes in Gujarat, have given the state two chief ministers, and can influence the result in at least 20 seats in Saurashtra and Central Gujarat.

In the absence of efforts by the parties to woo them, a section of the Kshatriyas has sent out signals of its own but the majority has remained silent. The royal families of the erstwhile princely states, traditionally Congress supporters and upper class Kshatriyas Zalas and Jadejas have come out openly in support of the BJP chief minister. In contrast, the OBCs, the larger section of Kshatriyas, have kept their cards close to their chest.

The Congress continues to boast influential Kshatriya leaders such as former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, Shaktisinh Gohil and Bharatsinh Solanki. The BJP lacks a Kshatriya leader of that stature. It has never managed to fill the void created by the departure of former RSS man Vaghela, who toppled the Keshubhai Patel government and formed a new party, only to merge soon with the Congress.

The community can sway the results strongly in districts such as Bhavnagar, Surendranagar, Jamnagar and Kutch in Saurashtra. In the Central Gujarat districts of Kheda and Anand, too, it outnumbers by far any other community. The Vaghelas, the Solankis, the Parmars, the Chauhans, and the Barias account for almost 60 per cent of voters in this region. Community leaders are understood to be pitching for more seats as this can directly influence election outcomes. These pleas, however, have not been made in the public domain.

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