Leuva Patels' vote will be crucial for Narendra Modi, Keshubhai Patel
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To make Leuva Patels' tilt away from Modi, Keshubhai got tactical support from none other than an epicentre of Leuva Patel community's religious faith, Khodal Dham, promoted by one Naresh Patel, a proposed temple of community deity Khodal Mata, in Rajkot which has now become a nerve centre of a strong anti-Modi undercurrent among the caste members.
Naresh Patel, who is considered a rising star of the Leuva Patels, is in the forefront to galvanize his community's support for 'Bapa' (father), as Keshubhai is fondly called.
Both Congress and BJP know the importance of Leuvas in Saurashtra and hence both parties have liberally given tickets to candidates representing this community.
In 2007, BJP had given tickets to 13 Leuva candidates and Congress fielded 14. A total of 29 Leuva candidates were in the fray. This time, BJP has given tickets to 14, where Congress has fielded 11 candidates.
BJP has given tickets to Leuva candidates on Rajkot South, Jasdan, Jetpur, Jamnagar Rural, Keshod, Lathi, Amreli, Dhari, Visavadar, Botad, Gariadhar, Savarkundla and Bhavnagar seats.
Congress has fielded Leuva Patels on Rajkot Sought, Jetpur, Dhoraji, Jamnagar Rural, Keshod, Lathi, Amreli, Dhari, Gariadhar, Savarkundla and Bhavnagar.
"Keshubhai very well knows that at best his party GPP cannot win more than 5 seats in Saurashtra. But it has the potential to damage BJP's prospects on around 15 other seats," says retired political science professor of Gujarat University Siddharth Bhatt.
A study conducted by a small team of students of School of Political Science, Gujarat University, has concluded GPP will damage the vote-share of BJP in Saurashtra.
Modi, who is considered a sharp poll strategist himself, seems to have realised this element and in a major U-turn to his successful formula of not giving tickets to sitting MLAs adopted in 2007 has renominated 41 sitting MLAs in this elections in the region largely due to fear that they will defect to Keshubhai's party.