Leuva Patels' vote will be crucial for Narendra Modi, Keshubhai Patel
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Leuva Patels, a backbone of BJP's uninterrupted 18 years rule in Gujarat, are giving sleepless nights to the ruling party on which way they will go in Assembly elections in Saurashtra this time after their caste's tallest leader Keshubhai Patel launched his political outfit.
Numerically-strong Patel community, having around 18 per cent population in the state, has rallied behind BJP in the last two decades, giving the party the edge over its opponents but this time they are divided on the lines of their sub-castes --Leuva and Kadvas.
The Leuva sub-caste, which 83-year-old Keshubhai Patel, represents, has in the run up to the elections at regular intervals organised huge caste meetings to assert their voice as they allege they have been marginalised in last 10 years of Modi rule.
"The question is to which political party this powerful sub-caste will lend its support? Will they stay with BJP or will they go to GPP?," said political scientist Dinesh Shukla.
Out of 182 seats in the state Assembly, Saurashtra region consists of 54 seats spread across 7 districts of Bhavnagar, Amreli, Junagadh, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Surendranagar and Rajkot. So, it is always said whichever party dominates in Saurashtra rules the state, he added.
In the past two Assembly elections, BJP under Modi has made Saurashtra a bastion for the party. BJP had won 39 seats in 2002 and in 2007 despite a sulking Keshubhai staying away from the campaign, the party had won an overwhelming 43 seats here.
But 2012 could be a different story for Modi as Keshubhai's party Gujarat Parivartan Party is also in the fray.
"GPP has only one point agenda: remove Modi. And Keshubhai is claiming that GPP is the real BJP, but in fact GPP is party of Leuva Patels," Shukla added.
"Though Patel consist of both Kadva and Leuvas... the former have remained with BJP and it is yet to see which side Leuvas are tilting to," Shukla further said.