Patels in Charotar mean business, caste no bar

In Charotar, the region between Vatrak and Mahi rivers in central Gujarat districts of Kheda and Anand, Leuva Patels have a significant presence, but their political influence is limited.

The community, which traditionally supports BJP, is scattered in the 14 Assembly constituencies in the region, which diminishes its influence in terms of number.

According to Nagin Patel, president of Anand-based Charotar Moti Satyavis Leuva Patidar Samaj Trust- Matru Sanstha, an organisation of Leuva Patels, 26,000 families of the community live in 66 villages of the region. The community is spread in Vadodara and Bharuch districts also and far outnumbers its rival Kadva Patels.

Leuva Patels of Charotar have the same surnames like Desai, Amin and Patel as their community members in Saurashtra. Only, they are too busy to look out of the region when it comes to politics. "We were invited to the Khodaldham sammelan in Rajkot. However, we are too busy and hence cannot attend such events," says Nagin Patel.

"Keshubhai has held rallies and public meetings in Saurashtra and Surat (where Patels from Saurashtra have settled in big numbers). He has not held a single public event in Charotar so far, probably because he could not find organisers. The movement has remained limited to Saurashtra," he says.

Bimal Shah, a former minister in the Keshubhai Patel government who now heads Kheda district unit of the BJP, says that except in Nadiad constituency, the community does not account for more than 25 per cent of votes in any constituency.

"Around 60 per cent of the voters in the region are Kshatriyas (Vaghelas, Thakors, Solankis etc). So, we are going to field Kshatriyas in four of the seven constituencies in the district," Shah says.

C L Patel, chairman of Charutar Vidya Mandal, an organisation of the community which runs educational institutes in Vallabh Vidyanagar, says invoking caste in politics in present times would not pay. "Keshubhai has taken up a wrong issue. Invoking caste in politics is not acceptable in the 21st century. This is an insult to the community," he says, citing examples of former Patel leaders from this region, Bhailalbhai Patel and H P Patel, who failed to win by taking up a similar line.

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