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The Patels, prosperous and influential as ever in Gujarat, have the lion's share of tickets from the three major parties for the first phase of the elections, which involves 87 of the state's 182 Assembly seats. They have been given a combined 77 tickets, twice as many as the next highest group, the OBCs with 44, and way ahead of the Kolis, the state's single largest voting community.
The BJP has fielded 25 Patel candidates and the Congress 21, but the two seasoned parties have been upstaged by newcomer GPP, led by Keshubhai Patel, which has fielded 31 Patels. The influence of BJP rebel Keshubhai makes the Patels a very crucial factor, especially in Saurashtra where 48 of 52 seats go to polls in the first phase.
Of Patel sub-castes, the Leuva Patels lead the Kadva Patels 52 to 25. There have been 17 tickets to Leuva Patels from the BJP, 14 from the Congress and 21 from the GPP. The Kadvas, who are equally wealthy and influential but have a smaller voter base, have got eight from the BJP, seven from the Congress and 10 from the GPP. Keshubhai and GPP general secretary Gordhan Zadaphia are both Leuva Patels but their party has beaten the others in the number of tickets for the Kadvas, too.
As the single largest vote-bank in Gujarat, the Kolis had wanted up to 30 seats from their respective parties but neither the BJP nor the Congress submitted to their demands. The community's 37 tickets include 11 from the BJP and 12 from Congress. Here again the GPP has scored by giving the community 14 seats.
The GPP has matched the other two for tickets to OBCs, too. It has given them 15 tickets, as many as the Congress has given and one more than the BJP has. The OBCs command a large vote share, their communities including Ahir, Rabari, Bharwad, Thakor and Choudhary.